I was with my grandmother in her final moments. I've also taken care of hospice patients as a home health aide.
My Passion for Working With Seniors
Even as a young girl not yet out of high school, I always had a passion for helping older folks. My paternal grandmother had a stroke and was unable to use her left arm and leg. I’d spend time with her so that my grandfather could take a break and get out of the house.
By the time Grandpa got back from shopping and his typical stop for a shot at the corner bar, I had Grandma bathed and looking all pretty. Then we would sit down and enjoy a simple dinner I prepared. Grandma and Grandpa both died in 1982 at the age of 80.
I never met my maternal grandfather. He died in 1956—many years before I was even born. Yet, I was fortunate to be extremely close with my maternal grandmother until 2008. She lived to be almost 103 years old!
Over the years and in between a couple of long-term corporate jobs, I became a certified home health aide. I realized very early on that working with the elderly was something that I truly enjoyed. There is nothing more satisfying to me than enhancing someone’s quality of life.
Many people struggle to come up with gift ideas for elderly folks. Whoever the senior is in your life—whether it is your parent, grandparent, other relative, friend, or neighbor—everyone enjoys receiving a thoughtful gift. Here are some of my unique gift ideas.
16 Gift Ideas for Senior Citizens
- Clock with big, bright digital numbers
- Bird feeder
- Soft plushy gloves (for indoor use)
- Socks or slippers with a grip bottom
- Greeting cards and photos
- Large print calendar
- Walking stick
- Lap blanket
- Gift card with a special note
- Certificate to a beauty salon or barber shop
- Smoke/fire and carbon monoxide detectors
- Medical alert systems
- Indoor garden
- Large button universal remote control
- Your time
1. Clock With Big, Bright Digital Numbers
Although a retired person may not need an alarm clock, they do appreciate a clock that has extra large, bright digital numbers. I found an alarm clock with a 4-inch number display at Big Lots for under $15. It’s a great idea for someone who is visually impaired. And the display is bright enough that it also kind of acts as a nightlight. In addition, nightlights may be a great idea, especially when it comes to safety.
2. Bird Feeder
Many seniors are lonely. Joe, one of my current seniors, does not watch television. His livelihood is sitting in his favorite chair in front of the picture window in the living room and watching any activity that may be happening on his street. I placed a bird feeder on a tall shepherd's hook right outside his window. It is entertainment for him.
When visitors stop by, he always talks about the different kinds of birds that came to visit. And somehow I believe that he does not feel as alone when his feathered friends are nearby.
Note: Make sure that someone else is available to fill the feeder if the elderly person is unable to do so.
3. Soft Plushy Gloves (for Indoor Use)
As we age and our circulation changes in our body, we often feel cold, especially our hands and feet. Many years ago, I bought my Grandma a pair of bright orange soft gloves. Not for use outdoors. She wore these gloves to bed every night. Recently, I got Joe to start wearing gloves inside the house because his hands are always cold. I noticed he wears them to bed, too.
4. Socks or Slippers With a Grip Bottom
Specialized socks or slippers that feature non-slip bottoms are a great gift idea. Any item that will keep you warm and safe from falls is always appreciated.
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5. Greeting Cards and Photos
I have found that many elderly like to look at cards they have received – over and over. And they love photos that remind them of special people in their lives. Little notes/cards given all year long can be very special and a constant reminder that they are thought of and loved.
6. Large Print Calendar
Many elderly people are unable to remember what day it is, what year it is, what season and so on. An easily readable calendar may help them not feel as lost and confused. Attach a pen so that days gone by can be checked off.
7. Walking Stick
Walking canes come in handy to assist an elderly person improve their mobility, their balance and too avoid falls. Yet many elderly people are opposed to using a typical metal “cane.”
Why not get them a unique walking stick or what is called a “hiking stick.” Even simply calling it a “walking stick” or “hiking stick” will enhance the chances of its use.
8. Lap Blanket
Who doesn’t love receiving a soft, warm blanket as a gift? For the elderly, I recommend staying away from blankets that may be too big to avoid trips and falls. A lap blanket, approximately 5 feet long by 3 1/2 feet wide is a great size.
9. Gift Card With a Special Note
If your gift recipient is able to travel, why not give them a gift card to their favorite restaurant. But be sure to include a note that says something like:
“My treat. You name the day and time. I’ll pick you up!”
10. Certificate to a Beauty Salon or Barber Shop
Many seniors live on a fixed income with rarely any extra money to spare. Give them a gift certificate to their favorite beautician/barber for a little pampering.
And an extra nice gesture would be to offer to drive them to their appointment too.
11. Smoke/Fire and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Safety, for the elderly especially, is so important. Make sure they have working smoke/fire and carbon monoxide detectors. If they are hard of hearing, make sure they have special devices that have flashing lights too.
If they already have these important detectors, buy some batteries for them and make sure they are all in working order.
12. Medical Alert Systems
Many elderly people, especially those living alone, tend to have a fear of needing help and not being able to get it. There are many choices of medical alert systems to help them continue to live independently. The options are very reasonably priced for the sense of safety and security received.
13. Indoor Garden
One of the most difficult things I have found working with the elderly is when they are unable to continue doing something they love. It’s a difficult transition. I watched my Grandma deeply miss her gardening. And more recently, the energy just isn’t there for my Father to continue his huge garden like he used to. Giving the gift of an indoor garden may be just what they need.
Just this week, my father received an early Christmas present from my sister. She gave him a complete indoor mushroom garden. It’s something that my Dad can easily do indoors, something he can take care of daily, and reap the rewards.
There are many things that can be grown in an indoor garden. Be creative. Even if it is simple house plants, having the feeling of taking care of something can be rewarding.
14. Large Button Universal Remote Control
Many people have a difficult time seeing the buttons on a remote control. In addition, those who have arthritis in their hands may find it difficult to press the small buttons. A universal remote control with large buttons may be exactly what they need.
Many elderly people are lonely and seldom touched. A helping hand, a kiss on the cheek, or a heartfelt hug could mean more than any gadget you buy at the store.