At Assured Allies, we work all year long to help older adults age successfully. As a group, we are more familiar than most with age-tech, age-gadgets, and aging-in-place devices and home improvements. But when it comes to personal gift giving, our recommendations hue to one fundamental principle: respect the individuality of the receiver. Older adults are an extremely diverse group, perhaps more so than any other age-defined cohort. Give a gift to the person, not their number, and you’ll be on the right track.
Keeping that in mind, we think you’ll find this list comforting, in that it probably echos ideas that you have considered or given in past years but also expands the familiar with some creative and/or novel ideas that you might not have considered.
It’s the Little Things
Relatively inexpensive, no-tech gifts remain perennial favorites. Staff mentions include:
Cozy stuff: throw blankets, fuzzy socks, warm slippers (with non-slip soles), therapeutic pillows and/or chairback cushions. Combine all or several of these to make a cozy basket. Add luxe hot cocoa mix and a personalized or funny mug.
Low-Tech devices: a weather monitor, an electric jar opener. For card players with or without arthritis, an electric card shuffler might be a big hit (“My grandmother loves hers,” says Rachael Lawrie, AgeAssured Ally.)
Stocking stuffers: Night lights, grandkid-made tree ornaments, notebooks, pens, and credit-card sized magnifying glasses to carry in purse or wallet.
No-tech entertainment: adult coloring books, jigsaw puzzles, and books.
“My grandmother does not have a computer at home so I always ask for her list of book recommendations and have been able to find older books from her favorite authors that are no longer sold in stores.” ~ Alexandra Pitkin-Morin, NeverStop Service Delivery Leader
No More “Stuff” Please
Sometimes more “stuff” is not what’s needed or wanted. Why not give an experience and create happy memories instead of clutter?
Outings and indulgences much appreciated by older adult gift recipients include whale watching, tickets to a play, stays at a bed and breakfast and/or AirBNB, spa treatments, and massage gift certificates.
“My siblings and I took my Father (67) to an escape room for his birthday and we had a great time.” ~ Oram Herstein, Senior Software Engineer
“Girls’ night out! I booked a hotel for my mother and I to go out to dinner and spend time together. It was so much fun. Did the same for my mother-in-law a few years ago. It was a really wonderful time.” -Anna Annecca, Senior Research Ally
Food gifts—a specialty item or basket, a restaurant gift card, a date on the calendar to dine out to cook a delicious meal together at home— also remain popular choices in the “no more stuff” category.
“My parents love a good burger, and Holy Grail Burgers makes an incredible burger.” ~Anna Annecca, Senior Research Ally
“My parents (who are almost 70) do not really like receiving physical gifts as they already have enough “stuff”. So I like to get them either experience gifts or food-related gifts. One time I went to Trader Joe’s and made them a gift basket with fun, different food items and they loved that.” ~ Anna Gray, Senior Ally Specialist Team Leader
“Homemade chocolates made by their five grandkids (with supervision).” ~Erik Wenzel, Senior Product Actuary
“A mocktail gift set. My father can no longer drink alcohol due to his medications.” ~ Anna Annecca, Senior Research Ally
A personalized gift can make someone feel really special and strengthen the bonds between you. A few staff mentions stand out for being relatively unique gifts that you might not have considered: VoiceGift tags that you can attach to any object or stuff in a plush toy or pillow, a NewYorkTimes birthday book, and StoryWorth, a keepsake book of your meaningful moments and memories.
“We made a VoiceGift with my son’s voice (who passed away) for my husband’s mother and just recently decided to make one for my dad (who has dementia) with his grandchildren’s voices. You can put them in almost anything, a teddy bear, picture frame!” ~ Danielle Zenus, Senior Ally Specialist.
You can’t go too wrong with personalized photo gifts, which take a little more effort to create but pay off in ongoing delight. A digital photo frame is the #1 most frequently mentioned gift to an older adult from our staff. And the second most frequently mentioned is a photo calendar, particularly one chock full of photos of grandkids and/or times together. Last but not least, who knew that a personalized Yankee Candle (see below) could pull out all the stops?
“We got my grammy a Skylight, which is a digital photo frame. Everyone contributes by emailing pictures to the photo frame (each one has an email to set up)! My grammy loves this!” ~ Robin Carpenter, QA, Compliance, and Training Clinical Ally
“We made my grandmother(who lived out of state) a blanket with a picture of all four of her grandchildren. She kept it at the foot of her bed the last two years of her life and it made her feel close to us.” ~ Morgan Pichel, Senior Ally Specialist
“I got my mom a Yankee Candle candle, with her favorite scent. I was able to personalize it with a picture of us on the front with a short sentence.” ~Morgan Pichel, Senior Ally Specialist
“I have also given my Grandma a personalized Yankee candle, and it brought her to tears! This is a GREAT gift!!!” Robin Carpenter, QA, Compliance, and Training Clinical Ally
Being aware of your gift recipient as an individual and not just how old they are is key for tech gifts. A GrandPad that delights one older adult can feel insulting to another. Know your audience! Many older adults are (much) more tech-literate than you might think if you’re under age 50.
Tech gifts mentioned by staff delight adults of any age, not just older adults: FitBit, Apple Watch, Amazon Alexa, Tile, Oculus, and a Firestick with an Apple TV subscription.
“We got my mom a Tile for her keys because she always misplaces them. She loves it! You can put the tile on anything you don’t want to lose—phone, wallet, purse, dog leash, etc.” ~ Marissa Badler, Service Delivery Leader
“I got my father an Oculus Virtual Reality headset last year. He can’t golf anymore but can play virtually. He now does his occupational therapy on it every day. He and my mom actually bought another so they could go on a virtual vacation together. They’re 87 and 81.” Larry Nisenson, Chief Growth Officer
And that’s a wrap for our 2022 holiday gift recommendations! We wish all of our friends and readers a very happy holiday season.