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We recently polled staff at several Ecumen communities for their advice on holiday gift-giving for seniors, particularly those who are in assisted living or care centers. Here are the top 10 suggestions:
1. Coming right to the top of the list is “the gift of time”— much more valuable than material gifts. The holidays can be especially lonely times for some seniors and special time with family and friends is usually the most welcomed gift. Putting effort into making a holiday visit truly exceptional can be priceless.
Jane Thieman, the marketing director of Ecumen Prairie Lodge in Brooklyn Center, Minn., suggests that one way to make a visit unique is to enable seniors to be in the holiday roles they used to enjoy when living at home. “Let them be the host,” Jane suggests. If your senior community has private rooms, try to arrange a family-style dinner or dessert party that a parent or grandparent can play the role of host and invite friends and family — bringing back good memories and a sense of empowerment.
2. Treats in the form of candy, chocolate and cookies are always a hit. And it’s best if they are individually wrapped, since residents like to share with caregivers, staff and visitors.
3. Gift cards are popular for those who are able to go out into the community — especially restaurants, movies and personal care. The activity director in your community can offer advice on popular destinations.
4. Comfortable lounging clothes, like robes, slippers and jogging suits — also blankets.
5. Toiletries such as hand and body lotions, shampoo and body wash.
6. Photos, especially framed photos or photo albums of grandchildren and great grandchildren with a mix of old and new photos, labeled with names and dates.
7. Games, such as puzzle books or jig-saw puzzles with larger pieces.
8. Wall, window and door decorations and calendars.
9. Magazine subscriptions.
10. Postage stamps and stationery.
For higher end gifts, consider iPads, Kindles and other tablets. Also an extra telephone might come in handy for some.
As with any gift, the sentiment and how it is presented is far more important than the gift itself. After a lifetime of material gifts, getting the feeling of being loved and appreciated will trump most anything.