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Thread: Gift ideas for elderly people who insist they don't want anything--?

  1. #1
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    Question Gift ideas for elderly people who insist they don't want anything--?

    My parents are in their upper 70s to mid 80s, and they insist "please don't buy us anything for Xmas; we don't want more 'stuff.'" I'll respect their "no stuff" wishes, but I'm not about to have my folks receive nothing for Xmas! The gifts have to be consumable, requiring no "stuff storage" of any kind. And the kids need to give to their grandparents, too. May I have some help with ideas, please?

    FWIW, I do have a list of ideas I can't do. I love my folks dearly, but am sad to report that Mom hasn't pursued many hobbies for years & years (she used to be an avid writer and reader--and I even remember when she played on a ladies' tennis team but alas, not any more), and Dad is totally mentally with it (has many interests & is a brilliant guy but, surprisingly, is not a big reader) but is physically easily tired & not doing too much each day. So I can rule out a lot more ideas than I can rule in. Here's the "no" list, which normally would be great ideas:

    Gift cards to stores. Mom & Dad dislike these, esp. b/c of economic uncertainty, with stores closing b4 you might use the card.

    Consumable bath stuff. Mom dislikes any girly stuff--candles, Bath & Body Works, scented things. (I'm totally opposite on that! ) And Dad doesn't need anything like that (cologne, etc.).

    Framed photo of the kids. We did that last year, plus Mom & Dad have tons of snapshots from all year long. They live fairly close to us, so they see the kids fairly often.


    Possible good ideas:

    Gift cards to local restaurants, since they're not really into cooking. Mom cooks a lot, but she doesn't enjoy it, & they do a lot of non-fast-food takeout.

    Homemade gift basket of foodie stuff. Dad loves everything I cook when he comes over! (Go, Dad! ) Maybe freezable or easily stored things: an assortment of quick breads; a premade (frozen) marinade for sweet potatoes (he loves mine but would never make them from scratch) or meat; what else?
    If you're afraid of butter, use cream. ~~ Julia Child

    As you cook, you enjoy omniscience about food that no amount of label reading can match. Having retaken control of the meal from the food scientists, you know exactly what is in it. (Unless you start w/cream of mushroom soup, in which case all bets are off.) To reclaim control over one's food, to take it back from industry & science, is no small thing; indeed, in our time, cooking from scratch qualifies as subversive. ~~ Michael Pollan

  2. #2
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    My parents, in their 80's, sound a lot like yours. Here are some homeruns from the past few Christmases:

    Roomba robotic vacuum--my mom wants to do housework but can't really, and she loves her some Roomba

    Remote rain gauge: My parents are retired farmers, who always obsessed over the weather because it dominated their livelihood. They still enjoy being able to read the rain gauge, and it self-empties.

    Bird and squirrel feeders, a deer feeder, binoculars, and birdbooks: self explanatory!
    Margaret

  3. #3
    I love the idea of making some of their favorites that they can freeze or refrigerate for later use, whether its snack, a dinner etc.

    And maybe from the kids (I don't know the ages), but perhaps make some cookies and the kids can help decorate them .... even if just squiggles of frosting, or sprinkles.

    You mentioned that they have quite a bit of photos, maybe a framed drawing from the kids.

    I'll keep thinking.

  4. #4
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    Testkitchen45,

    My parents are around the same age as yours and they are "downsizing" and getting rid of things. I started giving them gift certificates for services. It's a big hit and they thoroughly enjoy it.

    I give my dad a gift certificate to have his minivan detailed which includes washing, waxing, carpet vacuuming, dash cleaning, etc. He likes to have his van looking good but at his age is unable to do this himself. (he uses a cane to walk)

    I give my mom a gift certificate for a pedicure. Due to age and flexibility issues, it is difficult for her to trim and paint her nails. I give her a dollar amount that covers having this done several times a year.

  5. #5
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    Think experiences. Gift certs to restaurants. Tickets to a play or symphony. A personal chef service for a period (or just once). A cleaning service.


    "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself" ~ George Bernard Shaw


  6. #6
    We are in the same boat...

    One year my father in law asked for stamps...as in postage stamps. So, I bought a beautiful little wooden box and filled it with varied decorative postage stamps, address labels, an address stamp, and some fun stickers.

    Some other "gifts" we've given our parents:

    Year's subscription to their local newspaper.
    Paid for their cable television bill for the year.
    Long distance international phone cards-I have family in Scotland.
    Paid for lawn care for the year.
    and...one of their all-time favorites...Ben and Jerry's coupons...can be redeemed anywhere that sells the ice cream! ( you can check out their website).

    I also prepare a basket of tea, coffee, jams, mustards, and fresh baked goods.

  7. #7
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    Right there with you!

    My Dad is 86 and my Mom is 85. They don't NEED anything. And anything they could possibly need, they have plenty of money for (way more than I'll ever have!).

    We have done the restuarant gift card thing many, many times because they do love to eat out. This year, however, I bought them both something to wear. They don't shop much and every time I see them (about every other week), their clothes look...well...worn. Now, chances of these things I bought fitting and appealing to them are slim, but I'm taking the chance.

    I took my Mom shopping last week and she didn't see anything she liked for herself. She has tons of jewelry, so that's out. The only real hobby she has is crocheting, so sometimes I buy her yarn to make things (but usually not as a gift for her, but just something to do - she makes afgans for my kids, scarves for my step daughters, and for charities). The really hard part? Her birthday is 2 1/2 weeks after Christmas.

    I once did them a house cleaning service gift. My sister and I paid for 4 hours and the woman that was sent to do the cleaning never even got to the bathroom (the room that really needed it). I complained to the service and was told "that's what your mom asked for - to have her clean the bedrooms". Sometimes I can't win.

    Like I said - anything they need, they could pay for a lot easier than I could, so the situation is really hard for me. If money were no object, I'd pay someone to clean their house every week! I'd pay someone to paint their rooms, wash and wax their car, clean their gutters, plow their driveway in the winter and mow their lawn in the summer. They insist on doing all this stuff themselves (why pay someone when we can do it ourselves? has always been their motto), even though they CAN'T really do it themselves anymore.

    So anyone in this situation, you have my sympathy. Go with the restuarant gift cards - pick places you know they like, and maybe offer to take them or go along when they go. I'm sure they are like my parents, and love having you visit.

    Good luck!
    barbara-cook

  8. #8
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    DH's mom died long ago, but he was partially raised by a relative (who is in her 80s now) so it's always hard shopping for her. She was from Slovakia so she LOVES when I can find her a Slovak calendar. Likewise my grandparents are German so it's always cool when I can find them a unique German gift. Otherwise I agree with a lot of the previous replies....

    Great Aunt has a Roomba and loves it.

    I think a cleaning service would be great.

    I've gotten a box of cards and stamps (though I know my grandmother already has a huge stash of cards so wouldn't work in her situation).

    I've bought clothes.

    I know you said no frames, but this year I'm thinking of getting her a digital frame and getting photos from all the other sisters and uploading them on one card.....b/c how many pictures can someone possibly display at a time? If somebody else has already tried this with an elderly relative without success, please let me know.
    Amy

    Om Mani Padme Hum

  9. #9
    My parents receive Harry and David gift boxes from us every year and they love them.

    Would your father, and maybe mom too, enjoy crossword puzzle books?

  10. #10
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    I got my dad a membership to a wine club. It as a huge hit as he doesn't want to spend the $ to get good wine, but he truly enjoys it. And I got my mo a subscription to People magazine... Dad just can't see paying $ for that "junk" he says!

  11. #11
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    I dunno ... when someone says "no gifts" my first instinct is to honor their wishes.

    If it really is about "stuff" I can see trying to circumvent that, but sometimes people reach a point in their lives when getting gifts feels like more trouble than its worth. I'm half their age and I've just about gotten there, myself.

    It sounds like they would not like gift cards / certificates for ANYthing, not just "stores" -- they have a point that a business could fold any day and then the card would be worthless.

    If you do get them something, I'd make really, really sure they would want it and use it enthusiastically.

    One option would be to make a donation in their name to non-profits they support or would like to support.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by kim21 View Post
    We are in the same boat...

    One year my father in law asked for stamps...as in postage stamps. So, I bought a beautiful little wooden box and filled it with varied decorative postage stamps, address labels, an address stamp, and some fun stickers.

    Some other "gifts" we've given our parents:

    Year's subscription to their local newspaper.
    Paid for their cable television bill for the year.
    Long distance international phone cards-I have family in Scotland.
    Paid for lawn care for the year.
    and...one of their all-time favorites...Ben and Jerry's coupons...can be redeemed anywhere that sells the ice cream! ( you can check out their website).

    I also prepare a basket of tea, coffee, jams, mustards, and fresh baked goods.
    I second these kind of things. This what we did for MIL. She had trouble writing and loved the mailing labels and stamps.

    Another choice would be cut flowers/plant of the month or cheese/ tea, etc.

    Another idea would be a scrap book or photo book of the kids and them/ and you. A scrap book the kids could make and that might be special.

  13. #13
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    I have the same problem with my mom who is 71. Since she moved to her condo from a house she has been in the no new stuff mode and very content with this decision. This year we are giving to charities instead of exchanging gifts. So I am off the hook this year.

    I am finding my mom likes to get food. She is a big fan of cheese and some times I send her things from California that she cant get in Massachusetts like sourdough bread. She also loves to get flowers.

    My mom is always cold so one year I sent her several pairs of some really nice knee socks and she loved them. She also requested a crossword subscription one year (she still comments on this gift). I ordered a New York Herald Tribune Crossword Puzzles magazine subscription from Amazon and she was very pleased with this gift.

    Do your folks like movies? Netflix is something that my mom has expressed an interest in before she got Tivo.

    I have also given jam from Jam N Grannies and heard positive comments from this gift.

    http://www.gourmet-oregon-jams.com/index.htm

    What about a gift of your time? Sounds like you live close to your parents, you can make a coupon book for them to take care of some things around their house that are challenging for them to do or take them out for a meal.

    Everyone is so busy these days and I am finding that my mom and uncle who are retired are so appreciative when we can spend time with them. Even if it is to do the simplest of things like come over for a cup of coffee. If your dad loves your cooking why not give him a gift of his favorite meal and then stay to enjoy it with him. I am finding with my family members that are retired the simplest gifts are the most appreciated. A heart felt letter telling your mom and dad all the things you appreciate about them. Write about your treasured memories. Gifts from the heart are good and in my opinion are the best gifts to give because we never know how long we will have someone in our lives.
    Beware of the dog and I wouldn't trust the cat either ~ on a sign somewhere

  14. #14
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    It's always hard to balance that insistence on their not needing/wanting anything and the fact that it's pretty hard to present simply holiday greetings. I like the idea of food for the freezer: I've found a lot of older people seem to have a real sweet tooth, so I would think cookies, or portioned out dough, so they could have them "fresh from the oven". What about muffins or scones for breakfast? Single-serving stuff. Beef stew? Corn chowder? I love those little half-liter casserole dishes from Emile-Henry: They're pretty and go from freezer to oven. Obviously too pricey to stock up on, but I'm wondering if you could somehow make little individual lasagnes or other freezable casseroles, portioned. Are the kids old enough to make something in the kitchen for them? With, you know, a little "guidance".

    To be honest, I prefer to give "consumable" gifts even to people a lot younger than your parents! I love giving theater tickets, as Robyn mentioned, or is there any kind of class or lesson they would enjoy? I understand their limited energy, but didn't know if there was something they might like to attend. Is there a lecture that might appeal? A play? Do they drink? My mother used to appreciate a little bottle of Bailey's. Or a pound of See's candy . I did buy my mom some sweaters, because she hated to shop and didn't care that much about clothes as long as they fit her basic criteria (long sleeves, no showing off "my crepey neck" etc.). And I'm loving giving out those soft, fleecy/chenille type socks, even though that's "stuff".
    Even in his 40s and 50s my dad wanted only practical, so we had to go big on shaving cream, razor blades, toiletries in general, hankies, PJs etc.

    When I was a teen I had a friend who used to complain that all her grandmother wanted was batteries (hey, they're expensive!) and knee-high stockings and note cards and stamps and vitamin pills. My mother told my friend, "Then that's what you get her!" It seemed so absurd at the time, but now I totally understand.
    Good luck, I know the challenge!
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  15. #15
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    My MIL will be 86 next month and for the last 20 years her rule has been If I can't eat it or wear it I don't want it and for the most part I've held to that and she mostly got clothes. The last decade she's gotten food/wine baskets and she loves those. Most from either Stonewall Kitchen (she loves their mustard sauce for pretzels) or Wine Country Gift Baskets (though they dropped the ball on the last one I ordered for her so they're off my list).

    This Christmas her "basket" will contain a digital camera (she still uses the disposable ones and only has one copy printed) and the goodies to go with it and at least one bottle of wine.
    Well-behaved women seldom make history!

  16. #16
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    I hear you, testkitchen45! My father's mantra was "My needs are simple and my wants are few."

    Thanks to your query, this thread has such wonderful suggestions that folks will mine it for years.

    As my parents aged, it worked well to give them experiences. Older people often become less confidant driving to evening affairs. At Christmas or a birthday, we would give my folks homemade certificates for a particular cultural event to which we would also go, then do the driving and share a meal. Sometimes we would pay, but they often did as their contribution. Such events included symphony, opera, lectures, outings, etc. As an example, when my mother was past 90, one birthday present for her was an excursion train ride to an area with beautiful spring wildflowers. It wasn't easy -- it took more than one railroad employee to help her onto the train -- but she had such a good time that the pictures we took are among our most treasured.

    Kay

  17. #17
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    Netflix subscriptions, Block Buster gift certificates

    movie theater tickets

    Many towns have businesses that offer home delivery of local restaurants - you can get the gift certificate through them and they have a long list of restaurants to select from. We did this at work once for someone recoverying from surgery.

    xxxx of the month clubs - flowers/plants, desserts, wine, etc so they can enjoy a little something throughout the year

    magazine subscriptions

  18. #18
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    The last few years I have given my in-laws fruit from Cushman's. ( www.honeybell.com ) They get a box of citrus delivered to their door in Jan, Feb, and March. You can get something for however many months you want, or a nice gift basket in December, if you prefer. They seem to really enjoy it.
    Life is not the way it's supposed to be. It's the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.

  19. #19
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    I decided that when I get older and live in assisted living home, that the one thing I want to do is go to the spa and have facials, massages, and pedicures. Maybe your parents would also like that.
    Theresa & Gigi & Anisette & Enchante & Le Beau Ouiseaux Rouge

  20. #20
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    I thought Armel was going to suggest an evil puppy.

  21. #21
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    I"ll second the Harry and David idea. We got my grandparents a fruit of the month subscription every year for a long time. There's nothing like getting beautiful fresh fruit delivered to your door in the dead of winter. They also have cut flower of the month clubs, or potted plant of the month clubs.

    We're getting my FIL an open-date airplane ticket to visit us (he lives across the country), and my parents theater tickets that they'll have to visit us to use (we'll go with them). Travel isn't a big deal since they get airline benefits from my sister who works in the industry, but a reason to come and visit us is a gift they appreciate.

    I try to give gifts that are experiences rather than "stuff" when I can. It feels like most of us have a surplus of stuff in our lives as it is.

    Amy

  22. #22
    My grandmother really didn't want anything for the last 10 years of her life either. My brother would always get her a nice wreath for her door. I would spend a day cooking for her. She loved little casserole dishes of meals made up. I would make things like turkey tetrazini, chicken ala king, meatloaf, and beef and chicken gravies. I would also make cookies and brownies. She thought these were the best things she could get.

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Hammster View Post
    My parents receive Harry and David gift boxes from us every year and they love them.

    Would your father, and maybe mom too, enjoy crossword puzzle books?

    My mother 87 is still going strong so it is easy to buy nice clothes or jewelry for her. She is in a residence and they dress up for dinner.

    One thing my mother loves are brain teaser types of things like crossword puzzles or memory games. She says if she doesn't work her brain she will lose it.

    Another thing she loves is books written by or about political figures from all around the world. She is always current on world affairs so she really enjoys getting the inside story.
    newcook

  24. #24
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    My mother told me that she would rather have money, this year. This way, when she goes out, she feels she can pay her own way. Gift cards are a nusiance for her (her words, not mine) She said she doesn't need any new clothes because she just fdoesn't go out unless it is for a bite of lunch.
    You may have had a lot of unfair things happen, but when you look back over your life, remember something good that has happened for you. Replay the good memories. Joel Osteen

  25. #25
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    I have the same issue with my parents, although they are a little younger. I try to get grocery store gift certificates, renew memberships like the historical society, AAA, etc., or other useful things.

    My mom and dad give my grandma (almost 90) a box of useful stuff. She usually puts stamps, food items that my grandma loves, paper towels, pretty napkins, etc. My grandma enjoys this box. Sometimes they include a gift certificate for grandma to get her hair done.

    My mom had done a box of stuff for her mom for years but always got the other grandma something "pretty" because grandma likes collectibles. Some years ago, grandma commented that her friend received a box of useful things for Christmas and what a nice gift that was. My mom chuckled and started giving grandma the box of stuff every year.

  26. #26
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    My aunt is in her 90's. She doesn't need any stuff either. I send her a small tabletop decorated tree from LL Bean. She enjoys that. She is unable to decorate for the holiday and most certainly can't put up a tree.

    Thus tree comes decorated and she can just recycle it at the end of the season.

  27. #27
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    Wow; thank you ALL for an incredibly wonderful list of great ideas!!!

    (except for the evil puppy )

    Please keep them coming! Mom & Dad don't pursue too many hobbies/interests any more, so the more ideas, the better, as my choices will be limited by what M&D will enjoy doing. Thanks!
    If you're afraid of butter, use cream. ~~ Julia Child

    As you cook, you enjoy omniscience about food that no amount of label reading can match. Having retaken control of the meal from the food scientists, you know exactly what is in it. (Unless you start w/cream of mushroom soup, in which case all bets are off.) To reclaim control over one's food, to take it back from industry & science, is no small thing; indeed, in our time, cooking from scratch qualifies as subversive. ~~ Michael Pollan

  28. #28
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    Of the things not listed already, which are some really great ideas by the way, two things that came to mind are one of the digital picture frames if they don't already have one or a custom made calendar for them where you can insert info on dates for them - like everyone's birthday.

    Another idea, but kind of expensive, is satelitte radio for the home. An older couple I know loves classical music, so when they found out there was 2 or so classical music channels on satelittle radio, with no commercials, they just had to have it. It also has tons of other channels, talk radio and stuff like that.

    Maybe be creative and make a "coupon book" for them - coupons to have their kids do chores for them - rake leaves, clean out gutters, cook them dinner, etc.

    One thing that just came to me though - you don't reckon they're saying they don't want anything because they really can't afford to buy others presents do you? My grandparents have become like that - I just give them homemade fudges and other goodies I've made.

  29. #29
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    I think a gift of time is the best thing you could do for them. I think your kids should make up coupon books as suggested, and then really follow through. I wish I could spend one more afternoon with my grandparents...
    - Josie


  30. #30
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    One gift that was a big hit last year for my grandma was a calendar I made with pictures of the kids each month. I also put in the dates for everyone's birthday and anniversary.

    DO your parents like to send out birthday cards to people? One thing I remember one of my aunts doing for my other grandma was giving her a large box of assorted greeting and birthday cards, stamps, address labels, etc along with a calendar that was marked with the dates of peoples' birthdays. There were a lot to remember as there were 5 kids, 5 in-law kids and 13 grandchildren just in the immediate family, and she had 2 or 3 brothers and such to keep track of as well.

    We have given season tickets to a local theater company she likes to go to in the past, and I know my parents have paid for snow removal, her internet access, etc. Those are some ideas too.
    “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed
    door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”

    Helen Keller (1880–1968)

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