How To Give the Gift They Really Want

“If your children ask me what to get you for Christmas, what should I tell them?” 

This was the question I posed to residents around St. Francis Villa.  Almost 100% of our 80 to 90 somethings answered the same way:  TIME.  One lady said “You know at our age, there really isn’t anything we NEED.  We want quality time with our families and friends.  It’s more precious than diamonds or gold.”

Though there are plenty of seniors in our society who have needs and would appreciate material gifts, most assisted living residents have what they need.  They often are that “person who has everything” on the family Christmas list.  It can be frustrating to hear an older person say “I just want my family around me,” especially since you know you can’t say “Ok, Grandma, it’s Christmas and we’re all here. Since you said that’s what you wanted, none of us got you a gift.”  So how do you give the gift they really want: the gift of TIME?  Here are a few ideas:

1)  Family Photo Session.  Give mom or dad a gift certificate noting the date and time of a family photo session.  Get everyone together and take multigenerational pictures.  This gift will be enjoyed by the whole family!

2)  Theatre.  Check local theatres for plays your mom or dad might enjoy.  Get tickets for both of you and give them for Christmas, with a note telling your parent you’ll be his or her date for the play.  Most theatres are very accommodating when it comes to mobility issues, and can help you find the right seat for your parent so he or she will be comfortable.

3)  A Year’s Worth of Outings.  Purchase a calendar and set aside one day per month to do something with your mom or dad.  Visits or outings don’t need to be expensive, since the gift is your time.  Vary them or do the same thing each time. For example, set aside the first Sunday afternoon of each month to have ice cream or coffee with mom.  Mark the calendar (and your own!) accordingly and give it as a gift.  Keep the dates with your parent and he or she will have a gift that lasts the whole year.

4)  Recipes.  My grandmother went to heaven with many favorite recipes that only she knew.  If your parent is a famous cook, or even if he or she still remembers old family recipes, a cookbook or recipe file can be a great gift.  Your loved one will likely need assistance writing down the recipes or would love to just show you how.  Purchase a recipe box with cards, or a notebook.  Give it as a gift with dates and times that you’ll be spending with her to record and learn favorite recipes.  Then, next year you’ll have a family recipe collection to give to everyone!

5)  Pampering.  Every lady loves a manicure or pedicure and this gift is perfect for moms and daughters.  Buy a gift card for a spa day and give it with the knowledge that you’ll be going with her for a day of pampering.

6)  Restaurant or coffee gift cards.  My grandmother and I had a weekly outing to her favorite restaurant for over a year.  She loved gift cards to “her” restaurant, and loved the time she spent there with us.  Give a gift card to your mom or dad’s favorite place, noting the date and time you’ll be bringing her or him.  This is a versatile idea for whatever your loved one enjoys, like ice cream, pizza, dessert, coffee and beignets, or even fast food.  The priceless part of the gift will be the togetherness when you “spend” the gift card.

7)  Movies.  This gift can be a multigenerational time opportunity, since most seniors enjoy a good clean PG movie as much as the kids do, so grandkids and great grandkids can be involved.  Purchase a gift card for a movie and plan to bring grandma and the grandkids.  Theatres have special seating for those with mobility issues, and are usually very accommodating.  If your parent doesn’t enjoy a movie theatre, buy a DVD of his or her favorite movie and plan a movie night at home together, complete with popcorn and candy!

Really and truly, the best gift you can give an older person is a slot on your calendar.  Even family members who see parents every day don’t always take the time to do fun things.  If you’re not quite sure what to get your parent for Christmas, try one of these gifts of time.  In the process, you’ll be giving yourself a gift as well.