So what do you give to people who don’t need more stuff in their lives, or if you want to support the cause of rightsized living? Here are my top ten choices for rightsized gifts. They are all different prices, to suit every budget.
GIFT IDEA #1 – Container of pocket tissues with a hand-made tissue holder
I love people who always have a clean, fresh tissue in their purse. Older adults seem especially fond of these pocket tissues. Pair them with a handmade tissue holder from Etsy, a website that helps small entrepreneurs sell hand-made items to a world marketplace. Total cost? Less than $10.
GIFT IDEA #2 – Hand-made soap and soap dish
Hand-made soaps seem like a luxury but are actually very affordable. Give a single bar or several, and include a wooden soap dish. Etsy is a great source for both. Plus, soap gets used up, so next holiday, you can give the same gift again! Total cost? About $10.
GIFT IDEA #3 – An e-reader
For many reasons, e-readers are great gifts for older adults. First, what do you do with books once you’ve read them? No one wants to throw them away, so people either keep them, adding to stuff in their home, or drop them off at a library or thrift store, creating a chore to do. With an e-reader, there are no books to dispose of or donate. Older eyes appreciate larger print and high contrast, but large print books make you feel old. An e-reader, on the other hand, makes you feel hip and young. You can adjust the font size and the brightness. You can even download e-books from the library for free! E-readers vary a lot in price, depending on storage and features. Total cost? Between $80-$200.
GIFT IDEA #4 Exotic oils and vinegars
Fancy oils and vinegars are all the rage and are a great gift for the gourmet cooks in your life. This is another gift that gets consumed, so you can give it again for a later holiday. Prices vary considerably. Total cost? $20-80.
GIFT IDEA#5 Indoor Herb Garden
Grow indoor herbs and enjoy fresh seasonings all year long. A gift that keeps on giving. There are hundreds of pre-assembled kits, some with seeds and some with starter plants. Having salad tonight? Cut some fresh cilantro, rosemary, basil, oregano or thyme. Total cost? Prices vary from $30-$70.
GIFT IDEA #6 Digital Photo Frame
Most older adults have dozens of photo albums documenting a lifetime of family events and adventures. They seldom look at them, but would feel awful about discarding them and won’t have room for them if they move to smaller quarters. Aging eyes that would have trouble with slides or small photos will enjoy the larger size of digital photo frames.
But most of all, they’ll enjoy the memories the photos evoke. Borrow their albums, select and scan favorites. and turn seldom seen photos into a compact, welcome part of daily life. Better yet, go through the albums together. It will give your family member a lot of joy. Total cost? Frames vary but figure $50-$100, plus scanning.
GIFT IDEA #7 Presto computerless email service
Traditional ways of communicating, like the phone, become harder as people age, since hearing loss is a common problem. If you have elderly relatives who are intimidated by computers, help them stay connected by getting them the Presto computerless email service. I described how Presto works in my blog post, “Bubbie, You’ve Got Mail.” Grandchildren and great-grandchildren can scan in homework and art projects, family members can send humor and health tips. If vision loss is an issue, use large font sizes so they can read what is sent. The Presto smart printer from HP is approximately $100, and the Presto computerless email service is $15 per month. It works off the regular phone line, so no additional lines or wiring is required. Warning: Bubbie became an email addict, so be prepared for calls asking for help with a paper jam, “Can you fix it tonight? I could have mail.”
GIFT IDEA #8 – A right-height, never clog toilet
A toilet…a toilet? Why not? A right-height, never clog toilet is a great right-sized gift for both you and your parents. As we get older, getting on and off the toilet becomes harder and a source of potential bathroom falls. Grab bars are a natural solution, but many people who would benefit from grab bars will refuse to install them. With a right-height toilet, they may not be necessary or can be postponed for years. Even better, retire your plunger. Right-height toilets like the American Standard Pro Series have wider traps and flush valves so they never clog!
Total cost (including installation): $500 -$600. Since you will never again need a plumber to fix a clogged toilet, this may be a gift that pays for itself.
I know, a toilet seems like a strange gift. We’ve lived with “normal” height toilets for so long, do we really a new one? My bet is that right-height toilets will become the new normal, just like curb cuts are present at the end of most streets and heated car seats are standard in many cars. This is universal design: it’s better design; it increases comfort; it’s inclusive; everyone benefits from it.
Really… wouldn’t you like to retire your plunger? We did. I don’t miss it at all.
GIFT IDEA #9 –Sound machine
A sound machine is a great gift for older adults. Sleep problems are more common as a person ages. There are many contributing factors, including chronic disease, aches and pains from conditions such as arthritis, any number of prescription drugs, and frequent urination. Sleep machines provide soothing, gentle noise that helps people stay asleep and fall back to sleep once awake. Add to this the fact that snoring is more common as people age, and a sleep machine may be the perfect gift for marital harmony. Cost? $20-40
GIFT IDEA #10 –Do Things Together
The best idea for rightsized gifting is to do things together. What we crave and remember are experiences, not “things.” Forget about shows, manicures and museums –although those are fine things to do together. Instead, think outside the box. How about a dog show or pet expo? See K9 drill teams and agility contests. Talk with animal rescue personnel. Watch the Parade of Breeds.
What are your favorite out-of-the-box things to do with an elderly family member?