Great gifts for seniors

If you’ve been to the mall or in a drugstore recently, you’ve probably noticed that the holiday merchandise has arrived. For some, that is reason to rejoice, but for others, it marks the beginning of gift-giving stress. 

This year, I want to help out that second group with a few suggestions for the older people on their lists. 

Let’s start with three things to remember when buying for elderly seniors:

•Smiles — Think about the person. What brings a smile to their face? Perhaps it’s music or movies, sports or dessert, or simply avoiding an unpleasant chore. Whatever it is, that’s your starting point.

•Practical — Above all, be practical. In general, seniors don’t want more “stuff” — they want something that they can use, experience or enjoy now.

•Time — The best gift you can give an older loved one is spending some time with them.

So put those all together, and what do you get? Here are a few favorites from some “experts”:

“My son gave me coupons for weekly handyman chores. He brings lunch for us both, and we catch up.”

“My daughter gave me a trip with her to a city neither of us had ever visited. We were able to discover it together. I would never have gone alone. She even arranged home care for my husband.”

“I love getting tickets to musical theater. My grandchildren each bought a ticket for themselves and pooled their money to get a ticket for me.”

“I can’t really read like I used to. My nephew gave me what he calls “the bookmobile.” He brings me books on CDs from the library. We have a cup of coffee and a chat. Best of all, I know he’ll be back to pick up the CD and deliver another one.”

“One of my nieces gave me homemade bread every other weekend for a year.”

“My grandson is just learning to drive, and he loves it. He gave me chauffeur tickets! He and his mom come over and take me to the doctor or grocery store. He’s becoming a good driver, too.”

“Baseball tickets. There’s nothing like going to the ballpark with my sons!”

“My kids live across the country, but they got me a phone card so I can call whenever I want to and not worry about the cost.”

“They got me a movie service: Turn on your TV, and watch almost any movie you want to. Sometimes, they even bring me dinner and watch the movie with me.”

“My kids are struggling a bit, and I don’t want them to spend a lot of money on me. My favorite gift is when one of them comes by and plays a game of Scrabble with me.”

“Museum membership. I can go whenever I want to and take as long as I want to.”

“I don’t know how, but my daughter made me a book with all kinds of pictures from my past. It reminds me of all the blessings I have had and continue to have.”

“My friend takes me for coffee and a doughnut every Thursday. It’s health food if you eat it with someone you like!”

“Last year, I opened a box from my daughter. Inside, there was a jar full of pieces of paper. I opened the jar and picked one out. It said, ‘Mom, I remember baking sugar cookies with you at Christmas and you letting me lick the frosting bowl.’ The whole jar was full of her memories of our time together.”

“It wasn’t a formal gift or anything, but my neighbor takes me to church almost every Sunday.”

“I love the magazine subscription I got last year. It gives me something to look forward to each month.”

“I used to be a science teacher, and my kids got me a university course on CD about quantum physics. Just because you’re old doesn’t mean you can’t learn.”

“I love the blanket I got last year. It keeps me warm on even the coldest nights.”

“I have everything I could ever want, but it means a lot to me when people fund my causes. Send me a card and give some money to the local food bank — that’s my kind of gift.”

“My grandkids all sing. The best gift is them singing carols to me on Christmas Eve.”

Happy gift giving!


MARLA BECK is the founder and president of Andelcare Inc., which provides in-home eldercare. The U.S. Small Business Administration has awarded Marla Beck recognition as Washington’s 2012 Small Business Person of the Year. Submit questions by calling (206) 838-1844 or via e-mail to

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