When birthdays or holidays come around, people want to do something nice for the older people in their lives who are now assisted living residents. But figuring out what to give can be a challenge. Below are some gift ideas that senior will appreciate.
If the resident doesn’t have already have one, gather as many addresses as you can for them into a fancy address book. Enlarge a family photo for the wall (perhaps your loved one’s favorite photo of themselves in their younger days), or put together a photo album. You can buy items like coffee mugs or calendars that are customized with family photos. As long as your loved one can see the electronic screen, a digital picture frame will always give them something new to see. Some can even have pictures added to them remotely, which makes it easy for far-flung family to add their own contributions.
A plant or flowers in a vase that you can refill every time you visit can really brighten up a room. If they have a tree outside their window, setting up a bird feeder for them that you refill periodically would be a wonderful treat. Give decorations related to an upcoming holiday for a festive change. Air fresheners or flameless candle burners make a strange room feel a little more like home.
A subscription to a magazine or newspaper is a wonderful gift. Not only does the resident get reading material, but they also have the joy of getting interesting mail! You may choose a publication from a favorite town or city they once lived in. They would also love a CD or tape of their favorite music, or an inexpensive DVD player with movies or favorite TV shows.
Books always make great gifts, but keep in mind that the resident may not be able to see well. Organizations that make materials for the visually impaired can be helpful resources in these situations: some even offer materials for free. Or you can just buy books on tape. There are even services that act like Netflix for audio books, so your senior will always have something new to listen to. Don’t forget headphones! Big old-fashioned ones are easier for seniors to handle than earbuds.
Anything to keep residents warm and comfortable will likely be appreciated, especially if it’s easy for them to put on and remove. Bed jackets, shawls, and blankets are a great choice. Even though we think of them as being kids’ toys, a doll, teddy bear, or other stuffed animal can be very welcome.
Stationery and stamps are popular, especially for residents with far away friends and family. An electric toothbrush may be useful. A resident who uses a walker will get a lot of use out of a basket or pouch that they can attach to carry things. Anything related to a hobby that your loved one can still enjoy will help them feel good about themselves and keep their mind active. A flashlight might make them feel a little safer, and a fan is helpful if your resident tends to be hot. A clock with large numbers is also a great idea.
What will make your loved on happiest is quality time spent with you. You don’t need to make awkward conversation for an hour if you’re not very talkative – instead you can choose an activity on the schedule to participate in with your resident. You can also volunteer to lead or help with an event, and allow your loved one to brag about how well you did later. Simply reading aloud to them counts as quality time. You can also videotape family events, such as a school band concert or a birthday party, and show it while recounting all the behind-the-scenes stories. Don’t forget to bring the kids! Time with children is especially welcome. Family members who live far away can record messages or stories that the senior can listen to again and again, or can send cards or letters.
Your loved one may also enjoy a visit from a pet. You likely won’t be able to bring an animal into the facility, but you can bring the resident outside and have them meet the animal there.
Residents will appreciate little trips outside the facility. Some ideas include a tour of the Christmas or Halloween decorations in nearby neighborhoods, getting an ice cream cone, watching a child’s sports game, or even just cruising around on a nice day. Short walks in nice weather will be appreciated too.
Meals that are home cooked or from a favorite restaurant are a special treat. Even something like pizza or Chinese can be wonderful since it’s not something residents have often anymore (make sure this is OK for the resident’s diet).
When buying gifts for your loved one, the key thing to remember is that this is a situation where less is more. Bulky or heavy gifts take up a lot of space, and even trinkets and magazines can easily become clutter in a small room. It’s usually best to avoid expensive gifts as it’s a real possibility that another confused resident can mistakenly wander off with something. For many seniors, at this point in their lives it’s the simple pleasures that matter most, and what will make them the happiest is knowing that you care and are thinking about them.