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Great Birthday and Christmas Gifts for Seniors

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RedElf (Elle Fredine) is a photographer and published author who enjoys crafting and finding unique gifts.

Presents for Grandparents and Other Seniors

Selecting the perfect gift for Christmas or a birthday can be challenging, even when you know the person very well. Picking the perfect Christmas present for your granny, grampa, or favorite auntie wasn't hard when we were kids. A small box of chocolates, a drawer sachet, or a new linen hankie was a stretch for my meager budget, even with some help from our mother.

Granny always swore that Grampa would love a new linen hankie, and sure enough, every Christmas when he opened that familiar slim box, he would exclaim that here was exactly what he had been hoping we would buy for him. He was just like my dad with the faithfully-recurring gift of a new tie or black socks—things of which Dad never seemed to tire either.

Money was tight when we were kids. We didn't have the luxuries many took for granted, but we never went without good food or warm clothes. When it came to replacing socks, men's handkerchiefs, undergarments, and other sundries, my mother made a virtue of supplying the necessities in the form of a thoughtful gift.

Also they were all items that we could "chip in," carefully counting out a portion from our small hoard of Christmas money for the honor of our names going on the "From:" section of the gift tag. We would be sure to excitedly point out our participation in each gift, and glowingly accept the grave thanks from each recipient.

But They Already Have Everything

Now that we are all grown, the Christmas/Birthday/Anniversary gift search has taken a new turn. Even when money is tight, we have the resources to buy a nice present—but what do they need?

My parents are now seniors, and have already acquired most of the household appliances and gadgets they will ever want or need.

Our next-door neighbor's grown children all chipped in and bought their elderly parents a new flat screen TV last year. It was certainly well-appreciated during hockey season, football season, baseball season. One of the sons confided that he hadn't a clue what to buy them next year though.

Money Is Not the Object

My parents love to travel. Dad's health doesn't permit a lot now, and travel for seniors can be expensive. If I ever won the lottery, though, I would send my folks on short cruises. I'd let them pick their own destinations and go anywhere, anytime.

Until I do win the lottery, though, (I know, I know, I can hear a bunch of you muttering, "Get in line!") I'll have to be a bit more creative. I was reading an article by TickleMeCute that sparked a memory of one of the most well-received Birthday gifts I ever concocted.

It gave me an idea for a truly unusual Christmas for my folks, the third of the Christmas/Birthday/Anniversary gift suggestions you'll find here.

By Tulane Public Relations (Vintage Scrapbook) [CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

By Tulane Public Relations (Vintage Scrapbook) [CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A Waltz Down Memory Lane: Creating a Scrapbook

We have done several versions of this wonderful and thoughtful present. Suitable for any occasion, I enjoyed the first "Christmas Book" the most.

The "Christmas Book" was created from an ordinary scrapbook with plain paper pages. Created for a very special Great-grandmother, it is a treasured family heirloom and has pride of place beside her family Bible and clan history.

Each child and grandchild created a page, trimming it with fancy papers in cut-out shapes and letters, filling it with funny sayings and favorite memories of time spent with Mom, Grandma, and Great-Grandma.

The grandchildren's pages were decorated with drawings, stickers, paper lace, beautiful ribbons, and lots of glitter pens.

Each album pocket was stuffed with cards and photos, each with names and dates inscribed on the back to assist with remembering when viewed again at a later time.

I'd made a "Birthday Book" some years before, on the occasion of this same lady's 85th birthday.

For that book, knowing she is fond of scarlet roses, I chose a dark red, silk-bound scrapbook and laid in as many rose stickers and rose-colored "add-ons" I could find. I used several shades of contrasting solid and print papers, all in fresh rosy shades of rose pinks, yellows, creams, dark burgundies, and greens.

That particular year, she was celebrating her birthday in three different locations, traveling to the Yukon, to Toronto, and then back home to spend time with all of her far-flung family.

I was able to gather photos from each family and every social occasion on her trip. I think she must have celebrated her natal day for a full month that year.

I had already created the pages with colorful borders, rose cut-outs, and flower stickers, so when the pictures arrived, it was a simple matter to fit them in. A number of the pages had funny stories that were sent to me, along with the pictures.

She was thrilled to receive the book of memories, but I had to repossess it briefly to make a few more pages for some of the photos she had taken on her trip.

The third book, "A Christmas Poem," is a slim volume that will soon reside with my folks as a souvenir of a very happy Christmas they spent with us. It chronicles a Christmas Visit at our house and features family photos taken during their visit, which have been arranged according to my rather free revision of the famous poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas," with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore.

No More Knick-Knacks

One of the things my folks requested some years ago was a moratorium on knick-knacks. When their grandchildren were little, they loved to receive little "gifty" things that the kids had made or purchased out of their very own allowance because they "knew Grandma loves cats," or "Grampa was a sailor so he'll love that lighthouse wind-chime!"

They loved every single thing, but they are not "collectors," and, as is the case with many other seniors, space is at a premium, so now the grandchildren have to be a bit more creative. As well, our family is far flung, with kids on the West Coast, the North, and out East in Ontario. That can mean spending quite a bit on postage to send even a smallish parcel.

For this reason, we love gift cards—not just for our folks, but for friends as well. If you know of a favorite restaurant or cafe, that could be an excellent gift for a senior. My folks still love to go out for a nice lunch, or dinner every once in a while, and we try to buy a gift card to one of their favorite spots for at least one special occasion each year.

Another favorite of a few years ago was a "dinner-and-a-movie" gift card. We gave one of those to our minister and his wife one Christmas, and they loved it. If your loved ones are beginning to, or are already experiencing mobility problems, why not arrange "take-away-and-a-movie"? You can pick up the meal from their favorite take-out restaurant, pick up a movie rental of their choice, and make a great family night of it.

We have also bought department store gift cards. Our family loves to shop the sales, and gift cards are a great way to do just that. If you know of something they might need or would appreciate, consider a gift card so they can pick out their own. Arranging a day to take Grandma or Auntie to the sales, and enjoy a leisurely lunch would be a fabulous way to spend more "girl-time" together.

A Different Kind of Photo Album

Many of our loved ones have boxes full of old photos and Super-8 reels, probably from every trip and vacation they have ever taken. There are any number of companies that specialize in making DVD photo compilations, setting old photos and movies to music, and re-recording them onto DVDs. I have seen some brilliant presentations - lovely collages of old photo stills and movie clips.

We put together a similar kind of presentation, using slides and photos that we had converted to digital medium, for a very special 90th birthday celebration. Then we made a CD of the birthday presentation, and exported it to the memory chip that came with the digital photo frame—one of the many lovely gifts she received. I know she spent many hours watching that parade of photos from her girlhood and from the many trips she had enjoyed throughout her "traveling years."

Gift Memberships With a Difference

A membership to the local library or seniors' rec center makes a great gift. It affords the opportunity to stay active in both mind and body. Perhaps, instead of just giving a membership to a seniors' center near your loved ones, you could take the extra step and include transportation to and from their favorite activity. As well, I know several ladies who take yoga and hobby classes with their moms as a way of keeping active together.

If Grampa or Uncle is fine going to the library on his own, swing by on your way home and take the books back for his. That make his next visit more pleasant as he won't be weighed down with books, at least on his way there.



The Gift of Time

My grandparents would always say, when asked what they would like for Christmas, or their Birthday, "We don't need anything, dear..." Not particularly edifying, but true. It is my contention that most other seniors feel the same way about whatever gifts we could buy them.

What they really need from us is our time, our consideration, our companionship.

One of the most thoughtful and caring gifts I have ever seen was a "coupon book". It was taped to the top of a beautifully wrapped box of chocolate cherries (her Grannie's favorite sweet). Each "coupon" in the hand-lettered booklet gave the gift of time and some simple service lovingly offered.

One coupon was for a trip to the grocery store, courtesy of Mom, of course, and offered "free cart-pushing and grocery carry-out". One coupon was redeemable for "One free lawn-mowing each week during Summer Holidays."

Another proudly proclaimed it could be turned in for a "free games night as Grandma's house" along with an offer to help select the snacks, while yet another promised "an afternoon with your best helper for baking Christmas cookies."

The favorite of all though, and cashed in on the spot, was for "Unlimited Free Hugs and Kisses."

A Thoughtful Tip

One more thing that we can consider to give them is an easy to use cell phone with PERS features. This can be very helpful to them—both in their communication and in their safety—so they’ll surely appreciate it.

I was, until recently, a die-hard iPhone user. Then I started having problems with my older phone, and needed to upgrade. But the least expensive iPhone I could get, without raising my monthly plan costs was still way out of my price range. So, I switched back to an Android phone.

It was awkward, at first, but years of using the iPhone had taught me a lot about phones. Once I mastered making the font larger,, and figured out a few other differences, it's been clear sailing. But a part of me still yearns for the happy old days of my large-button flip phone.

© 2009 RedElf


RedElf (author) from Canada on March 06, 2016:

That's a very thoughtful suggestion - to pre-address the cards. It would certainly save a lot of time - give more time to composing the message in stead of the addresses :)

Jacky Basl on December 13, 2015:

I think a nice gift for a senior citizen are all occasion cards, and stamps - Go and buy, get well, birthday, sympathy and also at Christmas time, get Christmas cards and address them for the person.

RedElf (author) from Canada on January 31, 2015:

Thanks so much. My parents really appreciated gift cards as they always said they didn't need any more "things."

Ana Maria Orantes from Miami Florida on December 21, 2014:

I like your ideas of the gifts for the elderly. Thank you for writing about them. You are great. I like older people too. They are nice people. My favorite is the gift's card. You can never go wrong with the gift card because if they do not like the gift . They can exchange with their friends, or they can give it away.

Rpenafiel from United States on November 15, 2011:

You’re welcome, RedElf! Thank you for acknowledging the idea I’ve shared as well.

RedElf (author) from Canada on November 15, 2011:

Rpenafiel Level 1 Commenter 5 hours ago "I like the ideas of the birthday and Christmas book. They’re very creative and I’m pretty sure that seniors would love it."

Hi Rpenafiel - I liked your idea so much, I included it in the body of the hub - thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

1stPhotoInvites on December 08, 2010:

So useful ideas for holiday season!

RedElf (author) from Canada on December 01, 2010:

2uesday, this is certainly the gifting season in this part of the world :) Glad you found some useful suggestions.

2uesday on December 01, 2010:

Nice ideas for gifts here, useful for all times of the year but especially now.

RedElf (author) from Canada on October 25, 2010:

A family tree is a wonderful idea - thanks for sharing that one, GG!

Give Gifts on October 25, 2010:

It can certainly be challenging finding an appropriate gift for our older relatives, like you say they already have everything. I think creating a special scrap book is a wonderful gift to give - it's personal and has meaning. A few years ago I created a family tree for my Nan. It didn't cost a lot, but she loves it!

RedElf (author) from Canada on September 17, 2010:

Thanks so much, GmaGoldie! I have a collection of hankies in a drawer, from my granny - they have hand-tatted lace edging, and are wrapped with a lavender sachet, but never used.

Thanks for commenting, "gifts" - I have included your comment below without your link ;)

gifts to usa 3 hours ago

The gift of time is great.We should give time to our elders because this is all that they want.We should love them and spend time with them.

Kelly Kline Burnett from Madison, Wisconsin on August 04, 2010:

You nailed it - the gift of time! No hankies! I have a wonderful collection - used to love them and then learned more about bacteria.

Great Hub!

RedElf (author) from Canada on January 03, 2010:

Good for you, MsLowrie. What a wonderful gift that will be.

MsLowrie on January 03, 2010:

I've been compiling our family history and fully intend to have it finished in time for my grandmother's next birthday. She's now 88.

RedElf (author) from Canada on December 29, 2009:

Thanks for your comments, Larly - sounds like a wonderful adventure!

Larly Sandoz says:

7 days ago

I love Christmas - and this year we are going to have a white Christmas in a magnificent French Castle by the name Château Hattonchâtel

RedElf (author) from Canada on December 19, 2009:

That's so special - you are so right about the time spent with them, too. That is the best gift of all.

Mike Lickteig from Lawrence KS USA on December 18, 2009:

My father and mother are 90 and 80 years old, respectively, and it is hard to buy gifts for them. My father asks for black shirts, even though he has more black shirts than even Johnny Cash ever wore. In truth, their Christmas gift is our time with them. Elders have learned to enjoy the moment, but sometimes they feel better if they know when that next moment will be.

I do have a couple nice gifts purchased for them, but I know they are mostly looking forward to the family being together.

Thanks for the post, it really struck a chord with me.

RedElf (author) from Canada on December 17, 2009:

Thanks so much, Maita! You are very kind to say so! All the best to you as well.

You are most welcome, frmeital - nice to meet you.

frmeital on December 17, 2009:


Irelly enjoyed this hub, actually I was just looking for a present to my loved granny so this was helpful, thanks..

prettydarkhorse from US on December 16, 2009:

hi Redelf, I wish you gonna win the lottery, nice hub, it shows your true color, loving daughter, and nice ideas too, have a good day always! Maita

RedElf (author) from Canada on December 12, 2009:

Thanks so much, Jess! You too - and see you round the forums ;)

Jersey Jess from USA on December 12, 2009:

Amazing ideas! Thanks for posting! Keep up the great work!

RedElf (author) from Canada on December 09, 2009:

Thanks, penny - nice to meet you! There are a number of other Hubs on this topic - no reason you can't write another ;)

pennyhowington from Mesa, AZ on December 09, 2009:

OY! You wrote the article I was thinking of doing! :) Oh well, thanks for the great read!

RedElf (author) from Canada on December 07, 2009:

Thanks, readabook. I can relate to that, too. It's not always easy when money's tight.

readabook from Texas on December 06, 2009:

Great ideas and so creative. I love that some of them are not very expensive. It is hard when you want to give gifts but are in tight spot financially.

RedElf (author) from Canada on December 03, 2009:

What a great idea! I think I'd make a color copy of the coupons to redeem and keep the book as a souvenir!

Sherri from Southeastern Pennsylvania on December 03, 2009:

What wonderful ideas. Love the coupon book. A suggestion...if you give one, make a list of what's in it for yourself. That way, if the book gets lost, the giftee can still claim the coupons. My daughter made these coupon books one year when she was very young for me, her father, and her grandmother, and we loved them. They are great for any age!

RedElf (author) from Canada on November 30, 2009:

You're so welcome, jill! Happy to help! The "gift-ee" really enjoyed her scrapbook.

jill of alltrades from Philippines on November 30, 2009:

Thank you for these wonderful ideas Red Elf! I could really use some of them.

I gave my mom a cd of photos before. Now I think I will try your scrapbook idea.

Thanks again!

RedElf (author) from Canada on November 30, 2009:

Right you are, Papa Sez! Time - time shared with a loved one - is always the most important gift we can give.

You are most welcome, Paradise7! We thought the coupons were the greatest, too!

You are most welcome, TFT! Happy to help. We are always looking for something different, too, but my folks sure enjoy the gift cards.

Truth From Truth from Michigan on November 30, 2009:

Thanks for the ideas, I do have trouble deciding on gifts for my mom. This will really help. Good Hub.

Paradise7 from Upstate New York on November 30, 2009:

You did a great job with this. It IS hard to come up with something for people who's material wants have dwindled.

I loved that "Unlimited hugs and kisses" gift. And the idea of gift cards, for people at a distance.

Thanks again, Red Elf!

Papa Sez from The Philippines to Canada on November 30, 2009:

My father is living with us for a few months now, and I learned that companionship and the gift of time are the most important gifts he can receive. Thanks for these very useful ideas, RedElf.

RedElf (author) from Canada on November 29, 2009:

Greetings, HH. Thanks so much for your comments...and you too, ethel! It gets a bit harder every year to come up with something a bit different, but it's sure worth the effort! Glad you found something useful here.

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on November 29, 2009:

It does get harder but you just have to be more imaginative. Some useful ideas here.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on November 29, 2009:

This is a great hub and very, very thoughtful one. Thank you for sharing.

RedElf (author) from Canada on November 28, 2009:

Thanks so much, kartika! The closer I get to that category of being (senior) the more sense I find in some of the things my mother and grandmother always said, lol.

kartika damon from Fairfield, Iowa on November 28, 2009:

Excellent thought about giving and Christmas!

RedElf (author) from Canada on November 28, 2009:

Wow - that was fast! Thanks so much, Putz.

Putz Ballard on November 28, 2009:

Some great idea, very thoughtful. Thanks.