Tis the Season of Giving – Giving to Older Adults at Christmas

The season of giving is upon us once again and as the song goes, “Santa is checking his list to see whether you have been naughty or nice”. For some of us, if Santa saw our credit card statement January 1, we would be at the top of his naughty list. Many of us buy into the idea that “more is better” and go into debt buying gifts. While it is fun to give and receive, how much fun is it to pay off your credit card? I am asking you to rethink gifting, especially for older adults who may not be as mobile or may have downsized and have limited space. The following are some suggestions that are consumable and/or do not occupy space or collect dust.


  • Bus passes or gift certificate for taxis that serve their area.
  • Pedicures, manicures, massages; a spa day. Some places will even come to the home.
  • Hand and body lotion, body wash, cologne, bath consumables, etc. Ask about preferences, most people have their favorites and may have fragrance allergies.
  • Gourmet coffee or tea.
  • Be sure to include batteries with anything you give requiring them. Just giving batteries is a winner—think of how many things we use that require them and rechargeable batteries are great.
  • Magazine, newspaper, newsletter publications.
  • Computer lessons; learning how to use email call allow someone to easily correspond with others, particularly family and grandchildren.
  • Wreaths, flowers and bulbs, particularly seasonal ones; poinsettias and amaryllis bulbs.
  • A calendar that is personalized with family photos (available at printing stores).
  • Tickets to movies, concerts, Community Theater, sporting events, etc.
  • Music; you can personalize a tape or CD with their favorites.
  • Photos of family and friends; include a photo album or put photos into a collage frame.
  • Postage stamps and stationary or all occasion cards. The stationary can even be personalized and you can make return address labels. If you are really in the spirit, volunteer some time to help someone write a note or address cards.
  • Give a service; housecleaning, yard service, snow shoveling, etc.
  • Supplies for crafting or a favorite hobby.


Gifts particularly for grandparents:

  • Grandparents love anything their grandchildren draw. Frame a drawing by your child; consider using a magnetic frame or a talking frame.
  • Pictures are wonderful whether they are snapshots or studio quality photographs.
  • Pictures also serve as ice breakers, even pictures of everyday life in a collage can be starting points for conversations between generations.
  • Videos of old time movies or classic TV shows; Jackie Gleason, I love Lucy, Burns & Allen, etc.
  • Exercise videos, especially ones designed for people who have arthritis.


If you give, a gift certificate be sure to consider the following:

  • Is there an expiration date?
  • Does it have to be used in the store on can it be used online?
  • What if the place goes out of business?
  • Will a gift certificate actually be convenient for the user?
  • If you give a restaurant gift certificate, make sure they make home deliveries.


For people needing large print materials some of the available items are:

  • Large print cookbooks, puzzles, word searches, playing cards and other games.
  • Large numbered phones and photo phones.
  • Other assistive devices; large button remote control for TV, talking indoor/outdoor thermometer.
  • Books on tape or CD are available for purchase at various places, but you can have access to a whole library at the Mn State Services for the Blind, They offer free reading material in alternate formats to people who have trouble reading normal print due to a visual or physical limitation. If order to use the library you must register and registration is free.


Of course, the greatest gift is when you give of yourself. You can make handmade gift certificates or coupons for various things. If you are not into calligraphy or art, you can make it on the computer. Here are some ideas:

  • Offer a day of “YOU”. For one day, they have your undivided attention. This can include anything from spending time with them or shopping, mending, fixing, painting, cleaning, etc. You may want to put in dates “YOU” are redeemable and how far in advance they need to tell you.
  • Teach someone how to use a computer.
  • Walk their dog; offer to pick up pet food and other supplies when you pick up your own. Offer to take their pet to the vet.
  • Read to someone. Bake with someone. Spend time with someone. Talk with someone.
  • Give someone a ride to his or her place of worship, doctor’s appointment, hair appointment, etc. When you offer a ride to someone’s place of worship, confirm times. It is nice to arrive early and allow time to visit after the service. If giving a coupon for a ride somewhere you may want to included information that tells the user the best times to redeem.
  • Rake someone’s leaves; shovel someone’s snow, etc.
  • Help someone go through, organize pictures, record who the people are or what the event was.
  • For grandparents spend a day with your grandchildren and do anything they want.
  • For adult children, make a weekly date with your parents on Suday morning for coffee.


Your thoughts and gifts are always appreciated by those you share with, but remember an expensive gift is not always the most treasured gift. In a poll, older adults could not remember what their favorite gift was from the year before, but they remembered with whom they had spent the holidays.


*Remember the true meaning of Christmas and take the Christmas pledge. Believing in the beauty and simplicity of Christmas, I commit myself to the following:

  1. To remember those people who truly need gifts.
  2. To express my love for family and friends in more direct ways than presents.
  3. To rededicate myself to the spiritual growth of my family.
  4. To examine my holiday activities in light of the true spirit of Christmas.
  5. To initiate an act of peacemaking within my circle of family and friends.


*From “Unplug the Christmas Machine” by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staebeli.

Senior Housing Guide is a Division of Housing Sense