Finding the right gift for older loved ones is so fun for me! There are many great gift possibilities that can meet practical needs, create joy, and help them connect with friends and family. Be sure to ask them what they want and what they need. If possible, try to get them something that fulfills both wishes! If they can’t come up with ideas, here are a few across a wide price range to spur your thinking. Always remember that the most precious gift is the gift your time, spent with them. Get creative and enjoy shopping!

Great Gadgets

  • A lift chair/recliner can be a helpful to people with arthritis, hip, or knee problems, and for people living with dementia who have trouble following directions. You can also get a portable seat lift to place in any chair. (I had these for my parents, and they were so helpful both to them, and to me as a caregiver!)
  • A car door assist bar hooks into the u-shaped striker (where the door latches) so they can use it for balance or to push themselves up – it makes getting out of a car much easier. You can also get a strap that fits around the window frame they can grab onto to pull themselves up.
  • Raised flower beds are a great gift for a gardener who has trouble squatting or getting down on the ground.
  • An easy jar opener is a fantastic find for people who have arthritis.
  • A handheld battery-operated electric can opener that latches on and doesn’t need to be held while it opens the can is also great for those with arthritis.
  • An electric razor can be helpful when arthritis, tremors, or other issues make shaving difficult. (I got one that could be used with shaving cream for dad and that enabled him to shave himself much longer than he would have been able to otherwise.) 

Timely Tech

  • A tablet is larger than a smart phone but smaller than a computer, and therefore often easier for people to handle and see. It’s also great for sharing photos and video chats.
  • Smart speakers have so many practical and entertaining uses; a smart speaker with a screen can also allow for video calls and visual reminders.
  • A digital photo frame or album is a wonderful way to share family photos and highlight vacation memories. Be sure to gift it with photos already loaded on it.
  • Smart home tech is helpful for everything from opening/closing blinds, to unlocking the door to adjusting the thermostat; all are great for those with limited mobility.

Comfort and Joy

  • Blankets can always be used, and there are many types available, including:
    • A soft, cozy, comforting lap or bed blanket in a color that is calming or meaningful for your loved ones is always a great gift. I had a lavender fleece blanket I always took to the hospital when Mom was there.
    • Weighted blankets, which are not only warm but also provide a feeling of safety and security and calm anxieties. Be sure to get an appropriate weight for the size of the person.
    • Heated blankets are especially nice for those who are constantly cold.
    • Fidget blankets are designed for those with dementia, and they provide sewn on buttons, pockets, ribbons to tie, etc. to keep hands busy.
  • A blanket lifter can be put between the mattress and box springs and holds blankets and sheets up off sensitive feet, preventing sores.
  • A fleece bed jacket keeps loved ones cozy in bed, in a chair with a lap blanket, or even on the toilet. I like the cape style – I got one for my dad and it was easy to put it on or take it off more quickly than a jacket with arms.
  • A visit to the hair salon, masseuse, or manicurist will always lift spirits and bring joy. You may be able to find one who will come to the home if necessary.
  • Adaptive clothing can be attractive and practical, with leg-long zippers for removing slacks, Velcro fasteners etc.
  • Well-fitted, rubber-soled slippers are a must for safety (many falls are caused by slippery slippers). Many older people wear slippers most of the day, so good arch support is important to support arthritic knees, hips, and backs.
  • Decorated compression socks are especially fun and available in holiday themes!
  • An essential oil diffuser with oils helps calm anxieties or build energy at appropriate times.

Fun and Fabulous

  • Games are a great way to motivate and create interaction among the generations.
  • Large print books or magazines are wonderful for people who are living with visual impairments.
  • Recorded books or an app/subscription for audio books are also helpful for those with visual impairments, and for those who absorb more auditorily, or who enjoy doing other things while they listen to a book.
  • A music app/service subscription to be used with a smart speaker means your loved ones can ask for any genre of music at any time.
  • A greeting card making/signing/mailing session helps them do a familiar task and you can make it fun.
  • Cooking or baking together stirs memories. Be sure to focus on their favorite dishes or family recipes.
  • A themed gift basket with food from a certain country, or a certain type of food and beverage they like, is a fun surprise. Include some games, gadgets, and keepsakes.
  • Edible gifts, like chocolate covered strawberries are usually a hit!

Super Safety

  • Grab bars with integrated towel racks are a favorite of mine. Replace all towel racks in a bathroom with these (and include installation).
  • A bed rail or floor to ceiling pole can help people get in and out of bed more safely and easily.
  • A microwave or oven automatic shut off device prevents fires if loved ones forget to turn them off or set the time for too long.
  • A medical alert or Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) can help keep loved ones safe (I highly recommend automatic fall detection). If you choose a wearable, look for one they will be comfortable wearing.
  • A radar fall detection device that fastens to a wall means a loved ones doesn’t have to wear a device.

Live it up

  • A life history or recording of their stories makes your loved ones the star of the show and gathers important family history at the same time.
  • A personal history trip to visit a place they used to live, work, or vacation brings up memories and feels like an adventure.
  • A meal is a practical and a fun gift. Be sure to eat with them if possible (even if you do so virtually).
    • Order a meal to be delivered once a week/month from their favorite restaurant
    • Set them up with a meal delivery service
    • Take them out for dinner
  • A movie night watching their favorite movies together is fun for all.
  • Visits to a garden, museum, local tourist attraction or historical monument together provide exercise, cognitive stimulation, socialization, and entertainment.
  • A visit to a friend or family member they rarely get to see is a special treat.
  • A trip to a concert, theater, or ballet together is especially memorable. If going out is tough, plan to watch one together on television.

Be sure to remember the caregivers with gifts too! I suggest a gift that keeps giving, like a subscription, a gift box that’s delivered quarterly, a wine or beer of the month club membership, or once-a-month chocolates that make them feel appreciated and special on an ongoing basis!

Amy Goyer is a caregiving expert and author of Juggling Life, Work, and Caregiving. A passionate champion for caregivers, she has also been one her entire adult life, caring for her grandparents, parents, sister, and others. Connect with Amy on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

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