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Front Page » November 1, 2012 » Focus » Senior gifts, What to do and how to choose
Published 688 days ago

Senior gifts, What to do and how to choose


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

It wasn't many years ago that my father was still alive and we were celebrating Christmas. He was very difficult to buy for because he was a very simple man, and his interests lay mostly in his garden and yard. Over the years my wife and I had bought him numerous things for the yard, but that Christmas I decided to take a different tack and buy him something for his garage. So I purchased him a very good battery charger for his car.

"What the hell did you buy me another one of those for," he said after he opened his present in his front room. "I already have three of them."

At times tact was not one of his better points. He took me out to the garage and there on a shelf stored away were three battery chargers, one of which was just like the one I had purchased him for a gift.

I have to admit I was a little hurt, and upset about what he had said. He was a gentle man so this wasn't in his general behavior pattern. But once in a while, like everyone he had a bad day so that is what I chalked his response up to concerning to the present I had given him.

I found from then on it was best that I either try to discover what he "really needed" or I just offer to take he and his wife out to dinner over the holidays as a present. The whole incident was an eye opener.

Over the years we all have received gifts we couldn't use or just didn't want. And I have found as I get older I often end up with more things that I can't use too. The problem is that when you are young you have so little that anything you get is a big help. As a young boy that first set of open ended wrenches I got were given to me at Christmas. It was a great gift to go in my small tool box. Today I probably have five full sets of open ended wrenches, most of them gifts from others over the years. Not that they haven't been valuable because I have a set in the house, in my garage, and in every one of my vehicles. More of those would be overkill in my tool box. The point of this is that at a certain age you accumulate a lot of stuff, particularly affordable things. And of course that is the price range in which most people can afford to provide presents.

I officially became a senior this year and I realize the dilemma my kids and my friends have in buying me anything. Short of buying me a new F-350 pickup or a Shelby Mustang, there isn't many things I want that I don't have. And buying stuff for the hobbies and recreation I like to participate in, really is difficult, because basically no one knows except me what I really need.

But as a general rule there are some things that one can buy for seniors (without know for sure) that are almost always acceptable. Here are some ideas:

• Warm things up. As men and women age, many develop medical conditions that require medication. Medications like blood thinners can make seniors feel the cold more than others, so a gift that can keep seniors warm through the winter can make a great gift. A thick wool sweater or a fleece blanket is both practical and thoughtful. I think no matter what the health of the person you are giving this type of gift to, it will be well received.

• Open a senior's eyes to e-readers. Many seniors find that maintaining a household is simply too much work once all the kids have grown up and moved out. As a result, many move from private homes into apartment complexes geared to the senior set or even into assisted living facilities that make it easier to deal with the daily demands of life. When seniors make such a move, they sacrifice space for convenience. Many seniors are great readers but under these situations personal libraries of books may no longer be possible or practical. An e-reader such as Amazon's Kindle or the Nook from Barnes and Noble allows seniors to store their favorite books in one small and convenient place.

• Give the lap of luxury. Many seniors are on fixed incomes, which greatly limit how much disposable income they have to treat themselves to something nice. But seniors still love a trip to the spa or a round of golf just as much as their younger counterparts. Savvy shoppers know that deals can be had on such luxuries, and it just takes a little patience and research. Sign up for a service like Groupon to gain access to exclusive discount offers to a variety of luxury offerings, including spa treatments, cruise vacations and rounds of golf. Signing up is free and easy, and you might just find a deal that makes a senior's holiday season. This, of course, even with a discount these things can be a bigger expense that for children could be a group present as well.

• Go healthy. Many men and women embrace a healthier lifestyle as they age. Seniors who might have been too busy raising a family to focus on their own health are typically encouraged by their physicians to exercise and embrace healthier eating habits. Gift-givers can help seniors on their quests to become healthier by buying them a membership to a local fitness center, many of which provide classes designed specifically for seniors. Fitness centers sometimes offer discounted memberships to seniors, who might even be eligible for rebates from their health insurance providers if they meet established attendance requirements.

• Give the gift of communication. Sometimes the best gift is the simplest gift. Seniors love to speak with their children and grandchildren, so why not give the gift of communication? If you haven't already, alter your cellular phone plan to a family plan that gives seniors unlimited minutes when calling family members so they can speak to their grand kids as often as possible. You can even go the extra mile and upgrade a senior's computer so he or she has access to instant messaging and videoconferencing services such Skype, allowing seniors to see just how fast their grandchildren are growing even if those youngsters are on the other side of the country.

• A good alternative that works for most people is the gift card or gift certificate. If you know a senior who likes a certain kind of thing you can purchase a gift certificate or card to a specialty store that would serve that want. Remember many older seniors do not want to drive too far to get what they want, so try to find what is needed locally. If that is not possible, make part of the present of a card or certificate an accompanied trip by you to that place of business. It's fun to see what your senior buys with what you have given them and sometimes you can even add a little more to the cost so they can get something better.

Finally, one can ask what someone wants. Often seniors will reply "I don't want anything" or "I have everything I need." Don't take that for an answer. Reply with "Well I am going to buy you something, and I would rather have it be something you want than something I think you want."

Now as a senior, I have decided (because recently I have been thinking about how hard it is for my kids to buy something for me) that I am going to be proactive and make a list of things that I need or want for Christmas that cost less than an $80,000 car. Considerably less.

It will be like I was when I was eight again and making up that list for Santa, but not worrying about not having a chimney on the house for him to bring me my presents.

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