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December 2016

Holiday Gift Ideas for Elders - 2016

I know, I know, this seems awfully early - it's not even Thanksgiving yet. For but years and years, I published this post during the first week of December but last year I got several requests to do it earlier. People said they want more time to think about, track down, order or make gifts. So here goes.

This year Hannukah begins on Christmas Eve, the evening of 24 December. I guess that means President Obama will need to interrupt his family Christmas to light the Washington, D.C. menorah. It happens that way sometimes with ancient calendars.

Because I've been gathering ideas through many seasons, the best ones don't change much over time and I'm repeating some you've read in the past including many you, dear readers, have suggested. But there are some new ones here too.

Even though I think these end-of-year holidays cry out for fun gifts over the practical, I am always concerned for elders with small, fixed incomes so items that seem too mundane to be classified as gifts can be more welcome that you might think. They free up money for food, clothing and medical needs.

One good idea is a basket – a big one – stuffed with a year's supply each of hand soap, bathroom tissue, Kleenex, sink and tub cleaner, batteries in several sizes, paper towels, trash bags, kitchen sponges, half a dozen new dish towels, etc.

If there is a cat or two, include a year's supply of kitty litter or for dogs, a similar amount of pickup bags. Anyone on a tight budget come to resent how much these necessities cost.

Mobility is an issue for some of us old folks. Some may have given up driving or can't walk as easily as they once did. So consider vouchers with Uber or the local taxi company.

Prepare a certificate for a certain number of trips with you doing the driving during the year to the supermarket and other shops your loved one likes. Throw in lunch or dinner when you do it and then help with toting everything into the house and storing it all.

Tickets to the local movie theater or maybe the local theater group with of course, the transportation vouchers to match. Better, include tickets for yourself and go together.

How about a promise of three or four dinners cooked at your loved one's home during the year. For people with mobility difficulties, having company on certain evenings is a wonderful event to look forward to especially when someone else is cooking and cleaning up.

A supply of home-cooked meals, individually wrapped and ready for the freezer.

If you are handy around the house, check to see what fixes are needed and commit to getting them done. Often there are little things that cost a fortune to hire a handyman, electrician, plumber, etc. so if you have the expertise it is a good thing for your elder.

Showing up regularly to do the laundry throughout the year can be a big help and it creates an opportunity for a regular visit and chat.

Getting and decorating a tree can be impossible for some elders. If you know that someone on your list would love to have a tree of his or her own, buy one and spend an evening helping to decorate it – or maybe put up some outdoor lights if that would be welcome.

Of course, you must help take it all down after the holidays.

Does someone you love need the lawn cut regularly? That's a good gift for spring and summer along with other gardening help in the season and washing windows after winter is done.

If someone who loves gardening has downsized and no longer has a yard, consider some indoor gardening – flowers for color or, perhaps, an herb kit for the kitchen. Another reader suggestion is bird seed and replacement bird feeders.

You get the idea. There are a lot of things in this category.

I a mixed on e-readers. It is popular with some elders and many libraries now have the technology to let members borrow e-books. On the other hand, many old people like “real” books made of paper.

If you do give an e-reader, certainly throw in a couple of books with it that you know will be enjoyed and do point out the hundreds of free books on most download sites. I think this is a sensational idea for readers who have downsized and don't have the room anymore for bookshelves.

For people who already have the e-reader hardware, a gift certificate to Amazon or other book download sites is a good thing.

For paper reading, you might consider a high-end magnifying glass. I realize it's low tech, but it is an enormous help with small print that, unlike on computers, cannot be enlarged. I have one next to the bed where I read a lot and another on my desk which frequently gets carried to the kitchen for the small print on food packages.

And batteries, lots and lots of batteries for all the things we have nowadays that need them.

One year, a reader mentioned night lights. Take a look around next time you visit and see if they may be needed. There are simple ones and playful, fantastical ones that are fun.

If an elder lives alone, consider a personal medical emergency service. Anyone, no matter how active and vital, can find themselves in need of emergency help with no telephone in reach.

A purchase of such an alert gizmo with the service contract paid for each year can be a good peace-of-mind gift. A large number of companies provide this service so you should check them out thoroughly and get recommendations before subscribing.

Also, installing grab bars in the bathroom is a good safety idea that is likely to be appreciated.

A couple of readers have mentioned a collection of greeting cards for a variety of occasions and don't forget the postage stamps to go with them. Help with writing notes and addressing cards is good for arthritic friends.

If you can afford it, you could hire a cleaning service for once a month or if that's too expensive, maybe one big cleaning event for spring.

If you are giving practical gifts or home-made certificates for trips to stores or the movies or taxi vouchers, be sure to include a token physical gift, something to unwrap. It doesn't need to be costly: a favorite candy, a pretty scarf, a bottle of wine, a box of special cookies.

This list, lengthy as it is, is only a starting point. Now it's time for your suggestions.:

What gifts have you been most pleased to receive?

Which ones you have given were successful choices?

And what have you given or received that was a mistake?

John Oliver on the Latest Political Email Mess

Just when you think the 2016 election campaign can't get any worse, it does.

Last Friday, FBI director James Comey sent to Congress a particularly opaque letter – which was, of course, immediately released to the press by the Congressional Republicans – about more Clinton emails.

These, Comey suggested in the letter, were emails to and/or from Secretary Clinton residing on disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner's computer which (again, Comey was unclear) may or may not have been shared with Weiner's now-estranged wife Huma Abedin who is a top aide to Secretary Clinton.

Are you following this? It's not easy given factual information is nearly non-existent.

One of the few facts that is known, however, is that when Comey wrote the letter, the FBI did not even have a subpoena yet to look for Clinton-related emails on that computer.

On Sunday night, the FBI did receive judicial permission to search the computer for Clinton emails which they are now in the process of doing. The search might not be finished before election day if it is true that the computer holds 650,000 emails. (Huh? 650,000?)

The uproar Comey's letter has caused can be heard around the world and is bipartisan: many Democrats and many Republicans are furious that

A: there is no reason to have sent the letter to Congress (some even say it may be illegal) and

B: it appears, even if not intended, that the letter weights the election against Clinton and in favor of Trump and

C: if that was not Comey's intention, he should have know that would be the outcome.

So far (Tuesday), Comey has made no public comment about the turmoil he has caused.

By the way, did you know there has been a devastating earthquake in Italy this week? That on Tuesday, Iraqi forces managed to breach the city limits of Mosul? That there was a terrible crash between a commuter bus and a school bus in Baltimore that killed several people?

Maybe not, since news unrelated to the presidential campaign does not make it to the front pages of newspapers (online and off) nor the top of TV news programs.

One could hope that this will change after the election post-mortems are finished but I doubt it. On the night of the 2008 election, I (in Maine) was on the phone for several hours with a friend (in New York) as we watched the returns together.

When we finally hung up, one of us the said, “Just watch. Tomorrow morning, some Republican will announce he is a candidate for the presidency in 2012. Sure enough, as I watched the news the next morning with my coffee, someone threw his hat in the ring; but I don't remember who.

This is all so depressing and miserable that we could all use a laugh.

Saturday night, on his HBO program, Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver opened the show with this latest Clinton email development. Thank god for John Oliver to give us a lift. Enjoy. (As always, there is some profanity.)

As I neglected to mention above in regard to Comey's letter, of course Trump and his surrogates are gleefully convicting Secretary Clinton of “worse than Watergate.” Yes, Trump said that.

Oh, one more thing: if you want to see the entire video of the dog and the giant Gumby, click here.