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The Best Gifts for Elderly Loved Ones

Merritt Whitley
By Merritt WhitleyNovember 17, 2020

You probably know it’s not the best idea to give your older parent or grandparent a tie or glitzy pair of high heels this year … but what would they enjoy, find meaning in, or use? Gift giving is challenging, because older adults have diverse and evolving needs. Some seniors don’t want a lot of “stuff” just sitting around or taking up space. For loved ones in nursing homes or assisted living,  physical health issues, memory loss, and lack of space may make some gifts impossible to use. But other gifts that bring joy or address day-to-day needs could be life savers. 

Whether you’re looking for the best holiday, birthday, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, or just-because gifts for elderly loved ones, consider these ideas from people who know best: our readers and staff in senior living. 

Reader-suggested gifts for the elderly

Although A Place for Mom readers agree that sharing time together can be one of the most rewarding and inexpensive gifts, it’s unfortunately not always possible. Luckily, there are plenty of gift ideas to express your gratitude and make them feel loved regardless of the occasion.

Personalized senior gift ideas

Give a meaningful gift with these simple yet personal ways to show your love and appreciation:

  • Call and talk about memories or favorite stories. Ask them some of these 20 questions seniors never get sick of hearing
  • Arrange for balloons, a teddy bear, or card to arrive outside of their door. Who doesn’t love a good, old-fashioned surprise?
  • Write a letter, paint a picture, or create something special like a personalized key chain or decoration for their door.
  • Plan a fun video chat with friends, family, and, of course, beloved pets!
  • Send a personalized GrandBox, filled with senior-friendly gifts, snacks, a note from you, photos, and more.
  • Liven up their space with fresh flowers and a heartfelt message.

Activity books or games

Games can be an excellent way to stay entertained while keeping the mind sharp. Check out the best board games for seniors, and consider some of these engaging activity ideas as well:

  • Crossword or sudoku puzzles
  • Deck of playing cards
  • Adult coloring books
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Video games for Wii or other popular consoles
  • Paint-by-number books

Musical gifts for the elderly

Does your loved one have a favorite musical artist? Purchase their music, merchandise, or a DVD featuring live performances from one of their shows or tours. Record, CD, or MP3 players will likely delight music lovers, too. Consider a small traditional music box for a nostalgic choice, or explore a variety of additional musical themed gifts like record-shaped coasters, a karaoke mic, piano-shaped cutting boards, and more unique options!

A photo album, scrapbook, or family tree

Order a custom photo book from a photo website, or use prints of family and friends to craft your own scrapbook. You could highlight a memorable family gathering, vacation, or birthday, or create an album of treasured memories from their past.

Help cover the cost of bills or fun activities

Reducing monthly bills — even by a small amount — can help relieve stress for your aging loved one. Consider covering the cost of their cable or phone bill for a month, or going in with extended family to pay for a longer period of time. If they have a car, prepaid gas cards could be a useful gift. 

Are there community activities they used to enjoy but haven’t gone to lately? Purchase a gift card or tickets for them to attend in the future. It’s exciting to have something you’re passionate about to look forward to — whether it’s a museum, the zoo, the ballet, or a favorite sporting event. If they prefer stimulating activities at home, consider a gift certificate for an online art, language, or computer class, depending on their interests.

Pairing money or a gift card with a handwritten note adds meaning to something that may otherwise feel impersonal. Write a message letting them know how much you care, your favorite qualities about them, and how you look forward to spoiling them.

Give them something useful

It never hurts to give a gift that can either simplify daily tasks, provide knowledge, or add enjoyment. Think about their personal likes, hobbies, and consider a:

  • Water flosser or electric toothbrush to simplify their routine
  • Multi-purpose reach tool with rotating rubber grip head to make grabbing items easier
  • Handheld vacuum cleaner to ease chores
  • Foot spa to soothe, relax, and repair tired feet
  • Plant, succulent, or gardening tools for nature lovers
  • Pair of bird-watching binoculars or an informational guide about unique species
  • Keurig, coffee mug, or special blend for coffee lovers
  • DNA test, such as Ancestry DNA, to learn more about family history and origins

Senior gift ideas from senior living communities

From handy items to technology devices to indulgences, these are top gift ideas for seniors from senior living staff.

Calendars for seniors

Desk and wall calendars come in a wide variety of designs, prices, and sizes. You can purchase a themed calendar based on your elderly relative’s interests — or better yet, create a customized calendar on a photo website. This allows you to add memories and pictures of children, grandchildren, friends, or past vacations for every month throughout the year.

New camera or selfie stick

Capturing photos and memories can be an amazing, yet simple way to connect in this digital age. Consider a Polaroid camera, which is making a comeback, or a selfie stick to make video chatting and taking pictures nearly effortless for your loved one.

Technology devices

Whether your loved one enjoys reading, listening to music and podcasts, watching movies, or playing on the computer, there are many devices and electronics to enable entertainment, such as:

  • Colorful mouse pad or sturdy carrying case for a laptop, phone, or tablet
  • Charging station for electronics
  • E-reader such as the Amazon Kindle
  • Amazon Echo
  •  Wireless headphones

Fitness items

Many at-home workout items help seniors care for their overall well-being while having fun. Low-impact exercises for seniors can include the following equipment, which also make for great gifts:

  • Light weights, such as 2- or 4-pound dumbbells
  • Yoga mats
  • Stretch bands
  • Water bottles

Great gift ideas for seniors in assisted living, memory care, or nursing homes

For seniors with limited mobility and health challenges, comforting gifts are ideal. So are items that help them recall special memories and feel close to those they love.

Bathrobes, slippers, and socks

Affordable and cozy, slippers or socks with non-skid soles are safest for seniors. Robes come in a variety of styles and fabrics, so consider whether your loved one prefers shorter or longer styles, lightweight cotton or thick terrycloth. Not sure? Brainstorm with their caregiver or choose something in-between.

Delicious meals or gift baskets

A home-cooked meal is always appreciated. If you live near your elderly family member, you can prepare their favorite dish and drop it off. If that’s not possible, your loved one’s assisted living community or nursing home may make the meal if you share the recipe.

A basket of goodies makes an impressive, feel-good display. For seniors who like to practice hospitality, snacks that are easy to share make a great senior gift basket idea.

You might fill a basket with:

  • Cookies, chocolates, or candies
  • Coffee or tea
  • Spices and dips
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Meats and jams

Digital photo frames

First appearing in the 1990s, digital photo frames continue to be an easy way to display hundreds of your loved one’s treasured memories in one frame. Each year, makers add features including smaller models for bedside tables, improved resolution, and easier updating.

Less expensive digital frames require the giver to load photos onto a flash drive or SD card. Cloud-based versions typically cost more and enable multiple family members to email photos to the frame and/or organize photos online.

Fidget quilts for seniors with dementia

Seniors with Alzheimer’s may become agitated or restless as the disease progresses. Often these behaviors occur in the evening, known as sundown syndromeFidget quilts, also called activity blankets, provide tactile stimulation that can calm agitation. Not only can they be a helpful distraction and calming mechanism, they’re also vibrant and a great custom gift idea!

Always-a-hit senior gift ideas

If you’re looking for a last-minute gift — or you’re still unsure what to choose — these senior gift options work well for any occasion.

  • Bath and body items such as lip balm, body spray, or lotion
  • A reading lamp or book light for reading
  • A subscription to their favorite magazine or publication
  • Scented candles, incense, or potpourri
  • A creative journal for writing or drawing
  • A video streaming subscription to watch unlimited movies and TV shows
  • Craft items such as yarn or patterns used to crochet or knit
  • Office supplies including pens, tape, and writing tablets
  • Personalized tote bags, T-shirts, towels, or paperweights
  • A big button universal TV remote 
  • A subscription to Amazon Prime to make ordering items fast and easy
Merritt Whitley
Merritt Whitley

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