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What to give Uncle Ernie, Grandma Mabel and Great Aunt Rose?

I’m literally running out the door for last minute shopping. I wanted to make time, though, to share with GeriPal good gifts for older adults that my colleagues have been sharing with me in case you're still in gift buying mode.

These suggestions are a mix of practical, helpful and more traditionally gifty. And it's meant to make you feel generous because giving makes your and your recipient's brains actually grow, sort of like this! (Thanks for the tip, Don Berwick, who summarized the wonderful benefits of being social and giving during a recent speech).

Links are embedded in each description.

Have a Very Geri Holiday!

Need a hand? There are lots of products that help maintain independence at home by making little things easier.
  • Jar Opener: There are jar openers that help a hungry jar owner open the lid by releasing the suction first. Ideal for people with reduced grip strength or wrist arthritis. Jar opener 1 or jar opener 2. (Credit: Lousie Aronson and Dandan Liu)
  • Other kitchen products: Like a scooped bowl to help get all that’s in there. 
  • Reacher/Grabber: Recommended by someone whose parents used one in turn after one’s foot injury and then the other’s hip surgery.
  • Handy bar: Use this moveable bar to get in and out of a car if you have weak hip strength. (From 
  • Power Shovel: Winter’s here! This can help someone shovel who does not have the arm strength. (From  
  • Arrange services: Call a local teenager to get the driveway plowed, or give a gift certificate for food delivery. Think practical!   
  • Nice cane! Cool canes and pill boxes are made by Sabi, who makes some nice looking and design savvy ones that are worth checking out. (Credit: Sarah Garrigues)
  • Or consider a cane with a little color and maybe some crystals (just make sure you adjust it to the right height).

A different kind of stocking.
Traction Socks are apparently made for kids and dogs, too, but could help a sock footed older adult keep her balance on the kitchen linoleum. (Please gift with a bottle of vitamin D!)

Look at my ride!
You can get gift cards to transportation services for rides to…well, where ever your friend or relative wants to go. It’s none of your business!
Some of these services don’t advertise gift cards, but they have them so call and check. For example: In San Francisco Silver Ride will send a gift card. (Credit: Helen Chen)

Exercise safely and hopefully more! 
  • When gravity is a bit of an enemy and one fall would be too many, you can still Sit and Be Fit with these chair exercises. 
  • There are also many YouTube channels with chair exercises that could keep them going, like "On the Move" a TV reality show with older adults doing exercise with other older adults. (Credit: Dandan Liu, Scott Kaiser)

Keeping the mind as active as the body.
Brain games can be fun, stimulating and prevent cognitive decline from occurring or worsening. One brain store put together a list of good brain games.  (Marbles the Brain Store, c/o Rebecca Sudore)

Reading the fine print.
  • Turns out that the right lighting is everything. Full spectrum light can reduce eye strain, which is helpful if you are working to read regular size print.  
  • Help out the reading process even more with a magnifying glass, which can go a long way when bifocals aren’t enough anymore.

Don’t just visit, do something!
If you’re visiting, the consensus is- do something! Can you clean something- the fridge, the basement? Can you fix the lighting? Can you help decorate the house? Cook lots of food and leave leftovers.

Can't cook? Send treats.
  • The best petit fours- good for snacking and kind of old timey! (And with diabetic and gluten-free options.
  • Candies from a former era.
  • Seafood soups. My grandparents loved chowders, so maybe yours will too.

What’s that you say?
There are various devices to help with hearing loss that aren’t hearing aids.
  • Pocket Talker: We are shameless proselytizers of these things, but personal sound amplifiers can let people with hearing impairment actually hear who they are talking to. This may be good for the person who refuses to wear hearing aids, or still can’t hear with their hearing aids as it can go over hearing aids already in place. This is the cheapest we’ve found, and in general they’re sold on-line and in Radio Shack stores.
  • TV amplifier: This picks up the TV specifically and helps amplify its sound.

What's that big black disc thingy?
  • Does your grandmother still have records? She needs a record player!(C/o Rebecca Sudore)
  • Or give the gift of music. Fill an iPod with your giftee’s favorite music, which can be a powerful mood modulator and cognitive boost. Music therapy is real.

Safety First:
  • Stove safety: Is someone you know leaving the stove on? How about an induction burner that only works when a certain pan is put on it, shuts off when it’s moved, and at least won’t light the rest of the house on fire? Unplug or unhook the stove and swap one in, and read more about them here.  (Credit: Dandan Liu).
  • Med reminders: The holidays are not the time to forget the lasix.  Consider gifting a medication-reminder clock, which can let you record your own messages (in your own language) to help you remember to take your pills on time.  (Credit: Dandan Liu).
  • Inflatable lift: You can place this under someone who has fallen and get them up, a good gift for a caregiver of a faller! (Credit: Helen Chen)
  • Sling: This allows you to carry someone out of a house in an emergency, good to have on hand for folks with mobility issues. (Credit: Helen Chen)
Remain calm.
One of our colleagues who works at a PACE program has heard this Therababy really soothes some older adults with dementia and behavioral disturbances- such as dreaded, nonspecific “agitation” and wandering.  (Credit: Dandan Liu).

Just give in.
The iPad.
Yes, older adults can use it. Here are some articles (here and here) to help you figure out how, but don’t discount your very oldest friends because they were born 80 years before its debut. Put your Photostream on it, install Skype for calls, or Evernote to share notes and letters. (Credit: Kathryn Eubank)

A guilt buster.
These are for older family members who wish they saw you more often, and let you know it! Get a calendar of family photos. You wish you could be there more often, but for now you’ll have to be smiling from the wall by the microwave.

A geripet.
A bit time intensive, but worth it for the right person- get a geriatric dog! My family’s approach to keeping my grandfather alive, who outlived his dogs time and time again, was to keep replacing his dogs. As someone who loved the pitter patter of miniature dachshund feet, it was fairly transparent that my family assumed he would never leave them behind. That worked for decades. 

Interestingly, there are many older dogs that need adoption and programs all over the country. These older dogs are often much calmer compared to puppies and already trained. Consider gifting one if your giftee could take it. (Inspired by Helen Kao)

by: Anna Chodos


swopna said…
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send gifts
Catherine DuBeau said…
Another great product is Yak Trax, for extra security walking on snow or icy or slippery surfaces. They cost ~ $20; fit over any shoe or boot and are very easy to get on or off.
Anonymous said…
Great list, but the TV amplifier link doesn't take me to a TV amplifier. Can you check?
Anna said…
Dear Anonymous,
My apologies! I fixed the link for the TV amplifier. Sorry about that!
Leslie Kernisan said…
Great post and thanks for including my wall calendar suggestion. (Gotta finish mine, come to think of it.)

Re tablets, Amazon's new Kindle Fire HDX comes with "MayDay": instant free tech support that you can talk to, and that can start circling things on the device or otherwise fix whatever needs fixing. I haven't yet talked to an older person who has one of these new tablets, but struck me as a feature that could be fantastic for older users.

Tablets also make great e-readers since it's possible to increase font size and contrast.

Thanks again for this post; love seeing all these good ideas.

Janice Reynolds said…
This is one thing we did for my husband's 86 year old mother. Our daughter is a scrapbooker so we paid for the material for her to make a beautiful book with pictures of the great-grandchildren. Most do not live near her so it was even more precious. She was beside herself; she was so thrilled with it.
M-C said…
Those jar openers don't work, too fussy, hard to get a grip.. The really good ones are these
But I've recently figured out that you can just use a pair of dishwashing rubber gloves :-).
Anonymous said…
I have to say that my mother would be insulted by all of these. She may be old, but she does not like being stereotyped and wants to consider herself part of the vibrantly living still. She also comes from a culture - Argentina - where there is far less distinction between the old and the young, a space that is totally hyper enlarged in this society. There, the old, the 91 year old still dye their hair, dress up to go out, eat in restaurants with friends and generally are visible and present in society. Who wants a cane for their birthday. It's like saying, buy your pre-teen some braces for the holidays. Braces are a must, not a cool-I-want to have.
RoseAG said…
An induction stove will likely require new pot & pans as well. Also the top remains hot after it's been used. I think by the time you're considering this a bigger change may be in order, however it will look good in the kitchen and make the place easier to sell.
Anonymous said…
As a Christmas present I write my grandparents a postcard every week. I order the postcards online so they are personalized with pictures of our family. I write about the little things we do every week, nothing too earth shattering. They love it and look forward to checking the mail every week.

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