Tidbits from the Sandwich Generation #7…According to experts on aging, my mother-in-law may not appreciate this year’s holiday gift, a fact I learned several weeks after making the nonrefundable purchase…On a recent trip to North Carolina, my husband and I fell in love with a charming lawn sculpture that reminded us of all of my mother-in-law’s favorite things (cooking and gardening), combined all in one. If a garden windmill and a set of cooking spoons had a baby, it would be this kinetic sculptur e. We hesitated for a moment just before purchase, noting that at 6 feet tall and a few feet wide, the gift was possibly a bit over the top (in more ways than one). Throwing caution to the wind, we found ourselves loading this whimsical and charming artwork into our trunk.
A few weeks after purchase, we had a bit of buyers’ remorse, so I found myself reaching out to Emily Newman, Senior Resource Specialist with the Orlando Help Desk to get the scoop on seniors and holiday gifts. I discovered a little too late that most experts (including Emily), concur that “less is more” when buying gifts for seniors, but hopefuly this info can help you when it comes to making gift choices for older adults in your life. Emily noted , “As seniors age, they appreciate meaningful gifts , rather than bulky ones that no longer fit into their down-sized lives. Most elders are looking to lighten their load rather than adding to their already considerable collections. ” When asked about her thoughts on our choice of a spinning spoon sculpture, Newman tactfully noted, “It’s always the thought that counts, with unique gifts creating lasting memories.”
According to Newman, lasting memories are the key to successful gift giving to the older generation. While a young person may not appreciate a framed gift or a family album, Newman believes an older person may treasure a framed photo of a grandchild or an album of a happy family occasion. Loading photos into a “moving picture frame” from a flash drive can treat seniors to a daily family slide show. She continued, “Seniors want gifts that create or continue connections. A pack of greeting cards (possibly self-addressed) and postage stamps may be a good way to maintain communications. ”
If someone is looking to buy a gift that can impact daily life, Newman recommends investing in a service a senior can use. “Helping a senior set up an Uber or Lyft account on their phone can help them get a safe ride any time of day without the hassle of parking. You can contribute a few dollars to help pay for this modern mode transportation. If using an “app” presents challenges, gift cards like Visa or Mastercard can be used to pay for taxi rides or a car service.” She also recommends hiring a cleaning service , a personal helper, or home care worker that can take care of things that the senior is unable to do on their own.
Annette Lee, Activities Director at Brookdale Island Lake, also favors smaller gifts for seniors, especially those in care facilities. She noted that many seniors in assisted living environments have limited space and storage, and therefore large items just aren’t practical. She recommends purchasing personal items that make them feel special and may be hard for them to get on their own, like small bottles of toiletries and lotions.
After talking to the experts, we added a few gifts of smaller stature to my mother-in-law’s pile, including a couple of gift cards to her favorite store, which would allow her to detemine the size of the actual purchase. And what about the “surprise sculpture”, still neatly wrapped in its box? There’s a 50-50 chance if you pass my house in late December, you’ll find the lasting memory of spinning spoon sculpture adorning my front yard. And for next year, we are planning on giving just a little less, which may mean a lot more.