Christmas - or other gifts - for the elderly.

Mama Liberty's picture

Over the years I've been asked thousands of times how to decide what to give elderly people for birthdays, holidays and especially Christmas. As a nurse, I had close contact with thousands of elderly people, and most of them received lots of junk they could not use and which was basically meaningless. They don't need more "things." They have all the bath soap, dusting powder, perfume, naughty nighties and socks they would need for another 50 years. This is especially true of the gentlemen.

So, here are some suggestions:

1. The most precious thing you can give to anyone is your time. Make time to visit on a regular basis. An hour at Christmas would be nice, of course, but an hour a week throughout the year would be priceless. Take them shopping or to a movie, lunch or a local attraction that won't be too taxing physically.

2. If they live in their own home or apartment, and are not independently wealthy, there are probably many small chores they can't accomplish anymore, but can't afford to hire done. Offer to clean out the refrigerator or kitchen cupboards and put down new paper. Offer to repot the house plants, clean out the closets, do some low maintenance landscaping, strip and wax the wood floor... there are hundreds of possibilities. These may seem like strange things to offer as gifts, but they will be far more valuable than a box of candy and will be remembered much, much longer.

3. No matter where they live, time hangs heavy on their hands if they are not physically able to be active or have an absorbing hobby. Unfortunately, it's probably too late for most of them to develop a hobby, but you can always attempt to introduce them to something that fits their physical capabilities. Offer to do it WITH them. That can make all the difference in the world.

4. What could you suggest a child give them? My children used to make up a "coupon" book for their grandparents and their father. Take some time (another valuable gift to your children) and discuss what sort of things they would be willing and able to do for their grandparents or other adults (such as other family elders). Help them choose age appropriate items and make sure YOU are willing and able to see it through if it will require transportation or other input from you. Help them be generous, but realistic. This is a fantastic learning tool as well as a wonderful gift to the elder.

Take a few sheets of typing paper and cut into even strips. Staple in the center for a "book." Give the child some crayons or marker pens and let them (or help them) write the coupons. A short message on the front of the book will urge the recipient to redeem the coupons whenever they need the "service" offered. My mother once got a whole book of coupons to walk the dog, and one in the back (after some gentle prodding) with an offer to clean the poop out of the yard. Mother loved it! And the boys discovered the reward was more frequent visits to Grandma, and the big plate of peanut butter cookies that always materialized. Smiley

I used to make up such coupon books to give TO my children. We all tell them we'll do things that interest them "someday," but that time often never arrives. Set aside some real time on a regular basis, then let the children choose one of the coupons to redeem. Maybe it would be for an ice cream cone or a pizza, a trip to the miniature golf they love (which you despise), or a movie. This lets you choose the time, but gives them the choice of activity in a wonderful and empowering way. The coupon represents a promise that you will have a hard time putting off. A very valuable idea, especially for procrastinators.

Everybody wins with these gifts. The cost is low and the value very high.

This rings so true.

Lobo and I have done this with each other, as well as with all the children. I think we all remember well the Christmas in México where I gave the older three coupons for meals of their choosing: after much happy discussion amongst themselves and some with me, they devised color-themed meals. (This was, the perceptive reader might note, a great end run around the fact that we were so broke that I had no money for more typical kinds of gifts.)


What a wonderful idea. I'd not heard this idea before. Thanks so much for sharing it.

- NonE