Gifts for Elderly Seniors:
Make Life Easier

(but don't forget the fun!)

Well-chosen gifts for elderly seniors
are suited to their abilities.
When simple things become harder, it's fun
just to be able to do them again!

Seniors are such a varied group that it's especially important to match the gift to your recipient! Here we'll consider gifts for elderly and not-so-active seniors, for whom everyday activities are more difficult than they used to be.. and some fun stuff too.

I've had the good fortune to experience extended-family living, both as a child when my grandparents lived with us, and later when my parents lived with me and my children (...and who knows what's down the road!). All four generations benefited greatly, and we've gained some experience with gifts for the elderly.

Here are some gifts for elderly seniors that we found useful, and some we wish we'd found back then:

Afghan/lap robe- Keeps those chilly bones feeling cozy
Alarm clock- With under-pillow vibrator, you don't need to hear it
Armchair caddy- Handy pockets keep TV remote etc. where needed
Books on Tape- Rest the eyes, or listen while doing something else
"Chillow" pillow- Relieves hot flashes, night sweats, sunburn, injuries
Doorknob adapter- Converts a round doorknob to an easy-push lever
Night lights- Light the way from bedroom to bathroom
Ergonomic utensils- Easy-to-grip tools for kitchen, garden, crafts
Garden stool/kneeler- Some have wheels, all ease the back and knees
Grabber/reacher- They come with wrist grip and adjustable reach
Talking Caller-ID- No more running to the phone for unwanted calls
Lap desk- Flat working surface to use in a comfortable chair
Large-button items- TV remote, calculator, phone - easy on eyes & fingers
Large-print materials- Books, sheet music, crossword puzzles, playing cards
Full spectrum lamp- Good for eyes and sense of well-being
Over-bed tilt-top table- (or over-chair), great for reading magazines
Sweater, light-weight- Be sure it has pockets (can reach in when seated)
Heatable Teddy bear- Freezable too, for easing stiff muscles
Wind chimes- A lovely sound, with or without a hearing aid
Window bird feeder- Brings the birds for a close-up visit

Food-of-the-month baskets are excellent gifts for elderly seniors who don't bake so much any more but enjoy hosting some friends to play cards or other games. For example, a bridge player is sure to enjoy a Coffee Cake of the Month. When your gift has expired, your senior's bridge club may decide to all pitch in on a 12-month membership!

A personal alarm system is one of those "must-have" gifts for elderly seniors who live alone or spend most of the day alone. My mom resisted the idea at first, because with poor hearing she couldn't make out what the responder was saying. We instructed her to just keep repeating, "I can't hear you, I've fallen down, please send help," and the alarm service people would hear her. (The alarm was never needed, but having it eased all our minds!)

Letters and visits and hugs! There's no better gift for seniors, especially those who live alone, than frequent contact with friends and loved ones. Even when it's brief, these forms of contact are meaningful, and therapeutic too! Some suggestions:

  • Make a weekly routine with the kids of mailing a postcard or note to Grandma or Grandpa - perhaps include a photo or a grandchild's drawing. And how about a scrapbook where your senior can save these treasures? Years from now, your grown kids will get a big kick out of reading their letters to Grandma.

  • Regular visits needn't be a big production. A weekly half hour over a cup of tea (perhaps during lunch hour or on your way to the store), or a Tuesday evening cribbage date will make a positive difference in your senior's life and general outlook - even more than longer but infrequent visits. A Gift of Your Time has more to say about gifts for elderly seniors (scroll down).

  • Of course, sometimes it does take a big production. My grandma was a confirmed homebody - though friendly and garrulous, she preferred to do her visiting at home. One Thanksgiving Day, she resisted coming to our traditional all-family dinner. So one of the dads helped the young cousins make "demonstration" signs, then took the kids to picket Great-Grandma's house until she agreed to return with them. She had a great day and laughed about it long afterward. Sometimes it's a fun gift all around just to make a special fuss over your senior. New memories are wonderful gifts for elderly seniors!

  • Nursing home residents who are able will usually enjoy going for a drive. Seniors suffering from dementia present a challenge, as they often have very little to say. They may enjoy looking through an album of family photos, or an attractive magazine related to their lifelong interests, or working on a simple jigsaw puzzle, or even singing together. Surprisingly, folks with dementia often have good recall of the words to old songs.

The value of hugs cannot be overstated! Human contact is vital to everyone's wellbeing, but physical contact is all too often overlooked or avoided for seniors. This is doubly important for seniors who live alone. Many seniors, especially the elderly and infirm, report that family and friends pay them friendly visits but do not touch them. Warm physical contact means more than most people realize, so don't forget that hug!

Your gifts for elderly seniors will be
just what the doctor ordered, if they
make life easier and/or provide some fun!

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Explore online resources for the over-50 age group via SeniorsSearch at Wired Seniors.

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