ELDER MUSIC: The Neville Brothers
GAY AND GRAY: Middlesex

Gifts for Elders on Your List...

...and if not for other elders, perhaps as hints for family members who might not know what you would like to have.

If you hit the stores on black Friday, you're a braver person than I am. For me, one of the perks of not working any longer is that I can shop when most other people can't. Of course, the internet makes shopping easy too, but there are some things I want to see and touch before I purchase them.

Elders on your list often need more careful thought than younger people. They may have downsized into a smaller home and not have as much room as they once did. Some may be in elder care homes with an even smaller space. We become less acquisitive too. So gift choices should be useful, needed and be something won't complicate their lives.

Here are some suggestions and maybe they will spark more ideas you can leave in the comments below.

For Those in Elder Care Homes
When I have contemplated the possibility of someday needing to live somewhere with full-time care, I panic slightly at the idea of not having favorite foods available. Maybe others miss some favorites too. A subscription to a fruit-of-the-month club would be a fine gift. A supply of a favorite candy. A basket of a variety of knoshes – candies, cookies, dried fruit, nuts, flavored popcorn, crackers, peanut butter, etc. The kind of stuff a group home is unlikely to provide.

For Those with a Money Shortage
Almost every retired person lives on less money than when they were working and elders, who were hit particularly hard in the crash of October 2008, have little opportunity to recoup their losses. So some practical gifts could be in order.

For computer users, a supply of printer ink – it's particularly expensive when you're on a tight budget. If arthritis and/or eyesight is a problem, a large-key keyboard can help. An iPod filled with the music of some favorite performers. A collection of DVDs of favorite stars or film genres, or a year's subscription to Netflix which now includes instant movies to watch on a computer.

It's hard to buy clothing for others, but slippers, a new robe or a sweaters for chilly days can become welcome luxuries for people with limited income. Real luxuries are good too. Because it has become so expensive, I've given up the fragrance I had worn for 40 years. I miss it. And I don't often allow myself a bottle of port that I like to have around – the really good, expensive stuff. Other people's luxuries will be different, but they will be welcomed with joy.

Practicalities shouldn't be overlooked. Can you afford to pay the electric bill for a year for a loved one? Or the ISP bill? A cleaning person twice a month?

The Gift of Time
As necessary as it sometimes becomes, giving up driving is a horrendous loss of freedom. But that is an opportunity for many kinds of gifts of time. You can create gift certificates for a monthly restaurant meal together. Or regular trips to the mall or grocery store or the movies or theater. You could plan a vacation to include your elder for next summer.

Perhaps there are old friends nearby that he or she hasn't seen in person in a long time. What a terrific visit that would be. And sometimes people surprise you with what would please them. Although my mother still drove to the store and around her neighborhood, she got to the point where she wouldn't drive on highways.

When I was visiting once, she mentioned that she had always wanted to see the show at Sea World. I would not have guessed that in a hundred years. So I drove her there and she had a fine day (so did I).

How about bringing the family and all the fixings to cook dinner with an elder loved one once a month. Be sure to make enough for leftovers.

Elders have a lifetime of stories to tell, but many don't think they can write them. Offer to help write their life story. Pull out the photo albums to spark memories. Or you could interview your grandmother and write the story yourself. She would enjoy telling the stories and then you would have them for the grandchildren.

These should get you thinking and I have one more suggestion. Spend the coming year listening carefully to your elder relatives. What they mention, sometimes only in passing, are excellent hints for future gifts.

Most recently Life (Part 2), the PBS program hosted by Robert Lipsyte, investigated the scourge of old age, Alzheimer's Disease. Here is a clip from the show of Mary Ann Becklenberg who has early stage Alzheimer's:

You can watch the entire episode here.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Plastic


Getting the stories from elders is, I think, so important. Someone, if not yourself, might be really interested in pursuing the family history and those stories are invaluable. That "someone" might be a grandchild or even a great grandchild in the future. Now that my elder's memories are gone, I'm kicking myself for not getting them when the memories were still there.

The best gift anyone could give an elder would be something that does not cost anything. You don't have to shop for it, don't have to wonder, "is this something they could use, do they have to much of it already and would they really enjoy getting it."

Time to just visit, time for a lunch or dinner out or even bringing lunch and sharing it at home. Oh - and how about taking time for a telephone chat.

Time is the most precious gift you
can give an elder who "doesn't get around anymore."

Ah Millie

That is the best gift of all.
I see my intown childen frequently, especially during the holidays but oh what a treat it would be for one of them to take me to lunch one day just to be together on an ordinary day.

I have an elderly neighbor who lives alone. Her son and other relatives live in the area and visit quite regularly. She’s in her mid-eighties, very active, and seems okay financially. When I notice her car has not moved for a while, I know it’s time to take the time and call. Yesterday was one such day. We chatted for about one hour. She had been sick and in a lot of pain during the past week. Her parting words to me on the phone regarding doctors and hospital emergency rooms were “our health care system is terrible” and “whatever you do, don’t get sick.”

What wonderful suggestions! All of them priceless...especially the gift of time!

What a superb list of ideas! I am sure it will be helpful for a large segment of your readership--if just to drop hints to their gift givers.
Our household is a bit different. My wife is not Jewish. I am so reformed I should have been a heathen. We were married on December 25 (that's called New York irony). As a result, Hanukkah and Christmas have always been somewhat confusing issues for our kids. Now that they are grown, we say every year, "Please, no gifts. We don't believe in them." Of course, they completely disregard our yearly requests. That's why we need grown children...it's balance time.



Barnes & Noble gift card.
Tape record the stories, so future generations can hear the voice as well. No matter what form audio becomes in the future the audio can be converted.

This is a wonderful post & lots of great ideas - thank you! One holiday idea we have for this to give copies of a DVD called "I remember better when I paint". It is narrated by the actress Olivia de Havilland who at 90 something is a role model for all of us. The film is about how the creative arts are helping to improve lives and open up communication channels for those experiencing memory loss, such as Alzheimer's. The film had a powerful impact on me and I look forward to sharing with friends who I hope will also be inspired.

Dad spent several years in assisted living and then a nursing home. He loved being able to offer the aides, nurses and guests some candy or cookies. It also helped encourage the aides to drop by his room for short visits along with the snack. So I'd bring along snack size candy bars in a basket or cookies in a tin. It made him feel like a host, and that was a good feeling for him.

These all are great ideas. Clothes never fit. We love to receive gift cards to a bookstore or restaurant. I used to send an out-of-state friend fancy coffee and tea, and an amaryllis bulb she could grow on her windowsill. Last year a relative sent me paperwhite narcissus bulbs. These are little things, consumable or not taking up much space, but appreciated.

These are really great ideas. I recall when my children were in preteen transition years they didn't know what to give their grandmother one year. Their limited dollars weren't going to allow them to spend as much as they wanted. I suggested they each create an original certificate or special card of their design on which they would express whatever sentiments they wished.

The gift was offering a fixed amount of time, number of days a week or per month (whatever they chose) their grandmother could redeem at times mutually agreed upon throughout the coming year. They would provide assistance with whatever she might need, spend time with her as she chose. This was committed special individual 1:1 time in addition to normal/regular times we would be together. Given their very busy young lives and our own, since we would be providing the transportation, this gift of time was significant for all.

She was continuing to live as independently as possible with some physical limitations since having had a slight stroke affecting her balance mechanism requiring she use a walker. She had been legally blind for years but compensated well within her limitations. She did live locally, but was some distance from our home. She had select help as needed and I provided much, but the gift her grandchildren offered was of a unique personal nature.

People usually never think of the Gift of Time. Thanks for putting it on your list!

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