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Holiday Gifts for Seniors

Angel Ridout
By Angel RidoutDecember 8, 2017

Every year my brother and I have conversations about how difficult it is to shop for our parents and/or grandparents. It seems that they have everything they need and now that they have downsized and retired, there is no space for frivolous decorative items or knickknacks. Shopping for seniors who are in assisted living or memory care is even more difficult, both because of the lack of space and their changing needs and cognitive abilities.

Holiday Gifts for Seniors

Here is a list of holiday gifts for seniors that won’t take up much space and don’t include the normal perfumed powders, slippers or socks that your parents or grandparents frequently receive for gifts:

Fun Gifts

  1. Adult Coloring Books: Coloring isn’t just for kids anymore! Coloring has many benefits for mental health including reducing anxiety and boredom. Coloring books are available with a variety of pictures. Just pick your favorite and add a pack of fine tip markers or colored pencils.
  2. iPad or GrandPad: I gave my parents iPads a couple of years ago and they enjoy browsing Facebook, playing games and reading on the Kindle app. At this point I think Mom has more games and apps on her iPad than I do. Just because your parents are seniors doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy technology.
  3. Restaurant Gift Card: Many seniors are on a limited budget and frequently one of the first things to be cut when money is tight is dining out. If your parent or grandparent lives alone, be sure and accompany them to dinner. Not only will they enjoy your company but it will give you a chance to spend time together.
  4. Retro Candy: Do you remember your favorite candy from childhood? Chances are your older relatives do too, but their favorites may not be so easy to find. Old Time Candy has you covered; you can buy individual boxes with the most popular candies from a particular decade.
  5. Videos of Old TV ShowsMy Dad loves Westerns but you don’t see them on current TV lineups anymore, however you can find options online. has a long list of TV shows dating back to the 1950s. They have a wide selection from “I Love Lucy” to “Perry Mason” and they probably have the TV shows your parents remember from high school. If your parent or grandparent is a music buff they also have vinyl records and CDs from decades past.

Holiday Gifts for Alzheimer’s and Memory Issues

  1. Eatwell Dishes: Many people with dementia have difficulty eating because they can no longer distinguish between the food and the plate or because they are not able to smoothly scoop food on to the utensils. Eatwell Dishes feature bright high-contrasting colors and specially shaped bowls, plates and spoons that do not easily tip. Food is such an important part of our lives and our holiday celebrations, and specialized dinnerware can help those with Alzheimer’s to enjoy meals and improve nutrition.
  2. Fidget Quilt: Many people with Alzheimer’s become agitated and restless as the disease progresses, especially in the evening. Fidget quilts, also called activity blankets, provide a distraction and tactile stimulation that can calm agitation.
  3. Memory Boxes: Photos are very helpful for those with dementia, and memory boxes take it a step further by adding mementos and items that can be handled. Texture and scent are important factors in memory recall. The smell and feel of a pine cone can bring back memories of childhood camping trips or Christmas trees, a ball of yarn the memory of knitting baby shoes and the smell of leather could remind a senior of his first baseball glove.
  4. Music Player: Many recent studies have shown that music can help Alzheimer’s patients with memory recall as well as mood. Most people with dementia respond best to music that was popular in their younger years or songs they have been singing throughout their lives such as Christmas carols or hymns. If a CD player or iPod is too confusing, the Alzheimer’s Store has music players that you can preload with favorite music.
  5. Share Time Picture Books: Reminiscence books provide a picture story based around a common theme that is familiar to the person with dementia. There are books that will appeal to men or women or both. Books are available that have images of a day at the beacha fishing tripworking in the garden and other day to day activities. These books can spark conversation and lead to reminiscences about childhood and other important times in the senior’s life.

Stocking Stuffer Gifts

In my family, unusual stocking stuffers have become a competitive tradition but we can usually count on Mom to provide practical items.

Here are some of the small gifts she has tucked into our stockings over the years:

  • Chargers and cords for electronics
  • Lip balm
  • Mini flashlight that will fit in a purse or on keychain
  • Postage stamps
  • Sample sizes of cocoa, coffee or tea

Useful Holiday Gifts

  1. Ergonomic Gardening Tools/Raised Beds: Encourage your parents’ green thumb and provide gardening tools that they can use even with dexterity or mobility limitations. There are a variety of raised beds that allow gardening without bending over and some of them allow for gardening from a wheelchair. There are also gardening tools for seniors with arthritis and limited hand strength.
  2. Large button Universal Remote: As TVs, DVD/blu-ray players and other electronics get more sophisticated, their remotes become more crowded and the buttons become smaller. A simplified remote with large buttons can be easier for seniors to work with, especially if they have poor vision.
  3. Lap Desk: Lap desks are great for those who enjoy multitasking while watching TV on the couch or relaxing in bed. A sturdy lap desk provides a stable surface for doing crafts, playing cards or writing letters.
  4. Magnifying GlassAs you age, it gets hard to read fine print in magazines, newspapers and many paperback books. If your parents or grandparents have stopped reading or are reading less because of vision issues, a magnifying glass may help. Once they have a magnifying glass, then buying books also becomes a great option for a gift. There are also credit card-sized magnifiers that make reading menus in restaurants much easier.
  5. Walker Bags: When my mom had hip surgery earlier this year, she used a walker for a month and commented on how difficult it was to do simple things such as bringing small purchases to the register at the store or to carry small items from room to room. Walker bags easily attach to the front of the walker and provide an extra pocket for carrying small items or keeping glasses and Kleenex handy. There are many patterns to choose from that will appeal both men and women.

Shopping for seniors can be a bit more challenging than shopping for a child, but in the end it is just as much fun to see their reactions when you find the perfect gift for them.

Did you get any holiday gift ideas from this list? What are you planning to gift your senior loved one this season? We’d love to hear your holiday plans and suggestions in the comments below.

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Angel Ridout
Angel Ridout
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