I had lunch recently with a group of women in their 60s and the conversation turned to holiday gifts and which ones we liked and those we didn’t.
Most agreed since they were downsizing their possessions that they didn’t want any more items such as vases, mugs, jewelry, books or clothes. Their favorite gifts were homemade baskets customized to their tastes such as knitting materials, favorite foods, art supplies, stamps, cards, packing materials, puzzles or puzzle books, scented and other types of candles, or bath products. New family photos were appreciated especially if they were framed. Memory books with or without photos were welcomed.
When asked what their favorite gifts of all time were the responses included a case of wine, a weekend trip to a luxurious inn, a spa membership, a lifetime subscription to the New Yorker, gift cards, a Bose radio, a juicer, a Smartphone, a tablet, Cashmere scarves or sweaters, and tickets to a concert or play. And no one ever was offended, especially in leaner years, about receiving a gift of cash.
We then talked about gifts that we give to our parents and other relatives and neighbors who were in their 80s and 90s. Gifts of time were especially appreciated by this group. A granddaughter volunteered to come over weekly to change beds and cook dinner. Gifts to elderly neighbors included shoveling, lawn upkeep, taking out their garbage, cooking them dinner, or asking them to dinner. Most of us volunteered to take older family members who no longer drive to medical appointments or errands. Gifts to parents living in other states included: arranging for professional landscaping, paying for a year’s worth of haircuts, hiring people to shovel snow and walk pets. One mother in-law raved about a gourmet gift basket she received each month, and another was delighted with having her monthly utility bills paid.
Most of us also gave gifts that were practical, and increased both safety and mobility. Examples of these were: a wall clock or phone with bold, easy-to-read numbers, life lines, magnifying glasses, amplifying devices, and floor lamps that gave off high intensity light. Air conditioners, fans and safe mobile space heaters were also popular gifts. Warm clothing, shawls especially those with pockets, heated blankets, no-skid slippers, warm socks and sturdy pens that were easier to hold in arthritic hands were also popular choices.
If you are in doubt about giving a suitable gift, ask. Some of us were surprised when we did. One woman asked for fancy teas and chocolate she couldn’t afford, another said she would be thrilled if her daughter would pick up her and her friends to take them to bingo and bridge games, a man wanted new sets of dominos, dice and playing cards, a baker wanted better cookie sheets and muffin tins, as well as assorted types of sugar. One of us cringed when she went into her uncle’s bathroom, so she spent an hour one day at Bed Bath & Beyond and another hour putting up a new shower curtain, replacing worn out towels, and added a coordinated rug and waste basket, some bars of soap and lotions. We asked, how did he respond? He practically cried, she said. He grew up during the Depression and wasn’t used to updating his household items. She was glad she paid attention to her observations.
Ask yourself if a gift is age appropriate, is well thought out, or can fulfill a wish or need of someone. These are the gifts that seniors will appreciate and remember.