How to give the perfect gift for someone in a senior living community

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At the holidays, what do you give that special someone who has given so much to you? Finding that special gift for an aging parent, grandparent or even a cherished friend or neighbor can be challenging enough, but it can become even more complicated when they live in a senior care community such as an assisted living facility or even a skilled nursing facility. We’ve consulted the experts and have some simple suggestions on different types of gifts to bring joy to your loved one, and to help ease the stress of holiday shopping.

Make it personal

Just because someone lives in an assisted living or skilled nursing community doesn’t mean they have to forgo their favorite things. A personalized gift can remind them of people they love, favorite pastimes, or cherished memories.

“Residents love family pictures and things that remind them of home,” said Christie Fitzgibbons, activities director at Elderwood at Wheatfield, a skilled living community in Western New York that’s home to 123 residents. “When my grandma was in a nursing home, we had a blanket made of soft fleece material printed with family photos that she used as a lap blanket.”

Food gifts are popular, too, especially little indulgences they may no longer be able to obtain for themselves. Candy from a fine chocolate shop, homemade cookies, favorite holiday treats or old-fashioned sweets that bring back fond memories all are good choices. Before bringing an edible gift, it’s a good idea to check with the facility to see if they have any food restrictions or policies about storage. In general, avoid bringing items that require freezing, refrigeration, cooking or baking.

Practical holiday gifts

For some, the holidays are a good time to stock up on essentials or more practical items. Clothing can be a useful gift for some, while others may enjoy blank occasion cards, pens, notebooks and stamps. Many older folks continue to enjoy sending holiday and special occasion cards to stay in touch with family and friends near and far.

“A few of the practical gifts that tend to go over really well include extension grabbers, cup holders that attach to walkers, and birdfeeders with suction cups to attach to a resident’s window,” said Jillian Cook, program director with Elderwood Village at Fairport, an adult home outside of Rochester, New York.

Holiday guide button finalOr consider making up little “care packages” filled with essentials like lip balm, pocket packets of tissues, mints, small bottles of hand sanitizer, lotion, deodorant or aftershave. Package it up prettily and wait for the compliments!

Many older adults enjoy reading. With an e-reader such as a Kindle or Nook, books are readily accessible – and the type size can be adjusted to their liking. You can pre-load the device with books by their favorite author or add a gift card for online purchases. If your loved one already owns a tablet, you can download apps like Audible or Apple Books and purchase digital books to read on their tablet. If music is more their thing, they may appreciate an iPod touch filled with their favorite music or accompanied by a gift card for a streaming music service.

There are other ways to indulge someone and remain practical. If the senior community has a gift shop or hair salon, see if you can purchase gift certificates toward the purchase of future items or services.

Handmade gifts from the heart

The holidays are about love, so gifts from the heart are always appreciated. Are there grandchildren? Grandparents love to receive handmade cards, ornaments and craft projects from youngsters.

Although their living environment may have changed, your loved one still looks forward to sharing holiday traditions with family, now more than ever. Regardless of the type of item you give, setting aside time to visit in person is the most meaningful gift of all.

For more gift ideas for family and friends who reside in an assisted living or skilled nursing community, download our holiday gift guide.