Aging in Maine

Gift ideas to help put smiles on seniors’ faces

Posted Nov. 29, 2010, at 5:47 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 30, 2010, at 1:36 p.m.

Thanksgiving is behind us and the leftovers are but a memory. The time has come to give serious thought to brushing up on Christmas carols and hoarding sales flyers.

There is no denying that this is a difficult economy and people on fixed incomes will feel the pinch. Energy costs and food prices are always a challenge. But as we all know, giving a gift to someone you care about is about much more than the gift itself. It’s about love and thoughtfulness.

That said, love or not, shopping can be stressful, especially when there is a person on the list for whom purchasing a gift can be a mental struggle.

Here are some ideas that may put a smile on your senior’s face:

Think about a calendar – but with a twist. Tell the giftee to pick one day each month when he or she would like to go out to eat or have a visit. Then follow through, and the senior will be assured of having company and perhaps a good meal at least monthly. It is something to look forward to.  If you’re considering cologne, after-shave or dusting powders, maybe rethink it unless you are sure it is a welcome gift. Scents are highly personal, and powder on a noncarpeted floor can be very slippery — an accident waiting to happen. Never give a pet to someone unless you are absolutely certain the person wants one and is able to properly care for it. For seniors who already have pets, send along a treat for their furry friends as well. Check with the person to see what the pet likes for toys and treats. Cats, especially, can be finicky. A gift certificate for a veterinarian visit also might be appreciated.The price of groceries is going through the roof, so gift certificates to the local supermarket may be in order. A decorative gift basket of favorite goodies makes a pretty presentation and also can be practical. Include some stamps, which are always useful. Gift cards for other things, such as gasoline, can come in handy. And because medications can be expensive, a gift certificate to the neighborhood pharmacy would be much appreciated. Large-print calendars with family birthdays and anniversaries circled, and personalized with family photos, is a creative gift and inexpensive. Think about a large-print address book. Then you can help the senior transfer all of the information from the old book. It could spark some in-teresting memories, making for a fun afternoon.Pay the electric bill for a month or two and then let your loved one know he or she will have some extra cash to spend.Think about movies. If your senior likes movies, there are some companies that work like libraries. Just choose the movie you want to see and they will mail it to you. When you send it back in the prepaid envelope, your next selection will be shipped. Thousands of titles are available for about $10 a month.  Other practical gifts include a cordless phone or answering machine. This can help prevent a fall, as the senior won’t feel the need to “run” for the phone. Or choose a magnifying glass for those who like to read, and a cuddly robe with matching slippers with non-skid soles, or fleece sweatpants and sweat-shirts for warmth.

Holidays can be depressing for people who are alone. So if you know someone who could use an outing, give him or her the best gift of all — time with you.

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging.

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