Giving a gift to a friend or family member who has moved into a Senior Living Community can be a bit tricky. The “usual” gifts – such as perfumes, flowers, or food – can actually impact the medical conditions of your loved one or their neighbors. And with space at a premium, any new knick knack needs to be carefully considered, must serve a purpose (sometimes more than one!) and take up as little room as possible.
We know everyone is different in their interests, activities, and comfort level with electronics*. So we’ve provided a number of ideas (with links) to help you find just the right gift for your friend or family.
1. Books…a “new” classic:
Whether learning a new language or re-reading an old favorite like Murder on the Orient Express – books are a simple, but much appreciated gift. And these days they come in every conceivable format; consider books on CD for those with failing eyesight or downloadable versions for your tech-friendly audience. (Earphones may be an appreciated add-on, making it a little bit easier to tune-out neighbors.) Of course, there is always the true classic: a “hard copy” book, also available in large print if appropriate.
2. A Stationary “Kit”
This is a simple way to help loved ones stay in touch. Whether you choose to go with an understated design or instead pick a beautiful and ornate stationary set – you are sure to please. Consider pre-printing some return address labels to make the mailing process easier, and don’t forget the stamps!
3. An Address Book…with elbow grease.
A perfect sequel (or prequel) to your stationary kit: the address book. You can choose from address books with covers displaying a work of art, or have fun with a “Little Black” or “Little Pink” book! Of course, the best part is if you schedule an afternoon to help the gift-recipient “fill-in” your present. (If your friend or family member is anything like most, they have an address book filled with years of crossed-out numbers and stuffed with little slips of paper!) A few hours of your time will be much appreciated – and who knows – you might find a long-lost relative tucked among the pages!
4, 5 and 6: Pictures, of course!
Pictures really are worth a thousand words – and at least three of our top-ten spots.
4. Consider an electronic picture frame to share lots of pictures in a very small space. If your loved one is technologically advanced they can download new pictures directly from your online photo manager. For everyone else, consider a frame that allows you to switch out a standard photo card – and buy two. That way you can start a “picture swap”, exchanging cards every few months.
5. A front loading frame! If you’ve never seen this relatively new type of frame it’s worth a look-see. They have a front “door” that opens to allow art to be swapped in and out on a whim. Perfect for a monthly package of artwork from grandchildren – or a seasonal family picture!
6. A fun and simple gift project perfect for kids and adults alike: print your photos at home on magnetic sheets; or print directly onto iron-on paper to make a T-shirt, canvas bag, or pillow into a personalized gift.
7. Continuing on a theme…the scrapbook.
To be fair, this gift could probably fit squarely under the photo category. But it depends on how creative you want to get (and how much time you have to spend). Album types abound, and anything from a small brag book to a fully personalized scrapbook will be cherished by all. If your gift recipient has a shoebox full of photos – and you have a weekend morning to help organize – you are sure to hear a memorable story or two! (Bring an album with labels, and consider capturing the conversation via audio recorder for future generations!)
8. Ready, set, go! An Activity Calendar
Activities of all variety are the spice of life in a Senior Living Community (yes, bingo – but boogie boarding too). An activity calendar is one of those gifts that will vary dramatically in format depending on your audience – everything from a wall planner or hand held book to an electronic planner or app. Do-it-yourselfers will want to set it up for their own needs…but for everyone else consider filling in the next month or two from the community’s online activity calendar.
9. The MUCH Appreciated Giftcard
We all know how much fun it is to find that “perfect thing” and indulge ourselves. Gift cards allow the recipient to do just that. Plus, deliveries are a treat for folks of any age. Just check first to make sure they have internet access for the shopping experience (many communities have computer centers and free internet). You have many options on how to deliver your gift card – email, snail mail, or print it off yourself and bring it by “personal courier” (always appreciated)!
10. Drum roll please….The KINDLE
We saved the Kindle for last for a few reasons. Yes, it’s super cool, but it’s also a bit more expensive than the other things on our list. (But…it could be the gift that keeps on giving, since many of the suggestions above could be delivered via the Kindle platform for many holidays and celebrations to come!) Consider your audience when choosing your Kindle style – everything from their love (or hate) of electronics and access to WiFi – to how they will use it (for reading only or 24/7 web access).
A few things to think about when gifting electronics to a not so tech-savvy senior.
- Look for large, clearly labeled buttons
- The fewer options the better (limit the need for scrolling through sub-menu options)
- Clear directions are important (play, delete, etc.)
And consider developing your own “quick reference” set of instructions – using language your friend or loved one will be comfortable with. Include pictures of the steps wherever possible. Have someone who has never used the equipment review your instructions for simplicity. And keep product information on hand so you can “pull-up” info online – and act as phone tech-support when needed! See a complete breakdown of tablets in our article on Best Reading Tablet for Seniors.