Senior Gifts: It’s the Giving, Not the Gift That Matters Most


Have you ever agonized over what gift to give your mom or dad or elderly relative? If you’re like most of us, then the answer is: Yes. I remember so clearly wondering what to buy, so I put it off because I didn’t know—and Bob, (my former father-in-law who I cared for) already had everything, not to mention that he didn’t do much of anything, so what could I possibly give? I would give anything now if I had just one more birthday or holiday to shop for him. Sometimes lessons come to us when it’s too late.

I am here to tell you—it doesn’t matter. Stop agonizing and enjoy the process of giving a gift to someone you love. It doesn’t matter if your gift never gets used. It doesn’t matter if you don’t receive accolades for the gift. What matters is the giving. What matters is a beautifully wrapped gift which speaks LOVE.

Here’s a list of great gifts that will make a difference.

  • Find a photo from your loved one’s past. Have it cleaned up and framed. Memories create happy moments.
  • Give a beautiful hankie to a grandmother.
  • Give a tie to grandpa. A tie says, “We’re going somewhere fancy one day soon.” Make sure you actually make arrangements for the tie to be worn. Follow through.
  • Give a music box with a favorite song. DVDs of movies from their past create hours of peaceful afternoons.
  • CDs of favorite music – or better yet, create a CD especially for your loved one with all his/her most loved music.
  • Make a basket of favorite treats or, better yet, have your children bake something special.
  • Give a digital voice recorder and encourage the senior to tell his/her Life Story.

What the holidays mean to elders

Holidays are critical in a senior’s life. Holidays conjure up all kinds of memories and can send someone into a downward spiral or, worse, into a deep depression if not handled with sensitivity.

Memories can be an especially sensitive issue. They have the ability to be wonderfully moving if the senior is encouraged to share memories and experiences. However, if the senior is made to feel like his/her memories don’t matter, a feeling of isolation can take over. Try not to let this happen. The more you can involve your loved one in holiday celebrations, the better.

When someone reaches true maturity, it’s not the things—it’s the thought. It’s the moments with the family. It’s the treasure of being with loved ones. The caregiving journey allows you to create moments and memories that will be cherished. Creating moments is what our life is all about. Make them special.

Cindy Laverty is a Caregiver Coach and Founder of The Care Company, an online support website for family caregivers. Through programs, coaching and products, Cindy is dedicated to empowering family caregivers.

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Gift giving for my parent had become difficult, too. I've done the photo and memory book things many times. They do like them. Dad's mind is good,Mom doesn't remember anything 5 seconds, although the past can be clear. When her 90th birthday rolled around, the household was also in an uproar over their impending move into a retirement center. So we decided a party was not a good idea. Still we wanted to mark the day for her in a special way. We decided to give her a series of little surprises. At breakfast she found a mini cupcake beside her oatmeal, later a cookie bouquet appeared. She ooed and awed over the gorgeous decorated cookies but enjoyed the paper bugs and flowers we'd added to it just as much. We 2 daughters took her to a quiet place for lunch and gave her a couple of brightly wrapped bird things (she likes birds). She had great fun showing the waitresses and they brought her a birthday sundae as a surprise for all of us. My brothers sent flowers to arrive in the late afternoon. Dinner was out with her 2 sons. Same restaurant but she didn't remember being there earlier. (She did comment though that she didn't think she'd ever gone to dinner with just her sons. And I think she's right). And when they came back the whole family was at the house for her favorite Strawberry shortcake to end her day. she doens't remember it but she definitley had an enjoyable day and we had the joy of putting a smile on her face over and over that day.

For christmas we are mailing little things each week. Taking turns so a couple of packages will arrive every week. Some of the gifts my dad will enjoy too, but anything that gives her a distraction and brings a smile to her face is a gift for him too, as he is her primary caretaker.
My 97 year old mother sometimes uses a cell phone. I programmed the phone numbers of family members. Her phone has 1 digit calling capability so i listed the most important numbers for her to reach as numbers 1, 2, and 3 so she could remember them. She also has a Life Alert button that she wears on a necklace. Some people qualify for a discount through Dept. Of Aging depending on income level.
So glad I found this list - I'm having a terrible time deciding what to get my mother-in-law for Christmas. I barely see her as it is and over the last few months, her health has started to really become worse so gift ideas have been pretty limited for me. A good list here, but I see one item missing that I've had recommended to me. Are these "senior cell phones" I've seen advertised any good in terms of ease and quality? Since she lives alone and has been falling in and out of poor health, I figured that the cell phone might be a useful gift, but I'm afraid the technology might also be too daunting for her. I've done some research on an affordable model I found from a prepaid carrier, SVC/Tracfone, and I think its incrdibly easy to use, but she might not. Any ideas or recommendations?