Is there anything harder than coming up with the perfect gift ideas for your older parents when you live far away from them? Fortunately, there ARE ideas that will make shopping easier for you while making life easier for them.
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For years I struggled with this dilemma. I didn’t see my parents often enough to really have a clue what they wanted or needed. And of course, when I would ask, I would get the typical parental response, “Oh, honey, we don’t need a thing.”
I bet you’ve heard something similar.
Thanks, but that really doesn’t help me out. After all, no one wants to get the “Crummy Daughter” award and not buy her parents anything! So I was left on my own to wonder aimlessly through stores (which I despise at any time of the year) or asking other people, “What are you getting for your parents?”
Finally, after lots of trial and error (and definite gift-flops), I’ve come up with a list of possibilities that will benefit your parents while making your shopping less of a nightmare.
Service gifts make your parent’s lives easier
- Many older parents don’t have the energy, mobility, or eyesight to keep their house as clean as they used to. Arranging for a maid service to visit their house periodically for deep cleaning tasks, or regularly to take care of the daily and weekly chores, may ease a burden that lots of older people don’t even realize is becoming a problem.
- Meal preparation or delivery can help you be sure that your parent is eating healthy dinners. Frequently the older adult loses interest in cooking (especially if they are widowed) and their health suffers as a result.
- Lawn care is often a huge responsibility as older adults try to take care of the mowing, weeding, edging, and gardening that is required when they still live in the family home.
- Many of our dads always took care of the family cars. They kept them washed, vacuumed, and maintained. As our parents get older, this may be harder for them. Joints that ache may make vacuuming and cleaning out the car difficult for folks “of a certain age.” And if Dad has already passed away, this may be a chore that Mom is completely unfamiliar with. Finding someone reliable to keep the cars cleaned and serviced can be a lifesaver for either parent.
- There are many other outdoor chores that cause problems for your older parents. While it takes a little advance detective work, being able to give Mom or Dad vouchers for services like snow shoveling, tree trimming, and gutter cleaning would make a great gift to be redeemed when they have a need.
- If your parent’s house has a chimney, it’s likely that it’s been a while since it was professionally cleaned. Besides, a good chimney cleaning will help prevent fires and create a safer home environment.
- Older parents may be on a limited budget which makes paying for larger home improvements more difficult. Perhaps it’s time to arrange for house painters to refresh the home’s exterior next spring or summer. Knowing now that the house will get a new coat of paint will give them time to anticipate and hopefully enjoy choosing new paint colors.
- The services of a good handyman are invaluable. Whether Mom needs a light fixture replaced or Dad needs some repair done in the attic, knowing that they don’t have to worry about working these repair bills in to the budget is a gift that will always be appreciated.
Gifts to make staying in place easier
A worry for many of us is how to make life easier for our parents who are getting older but still want to remain at home. These gifts help them remain independent but also reduce the likelihood of accidents occurring.
- This water sensor detects leaks so that your older parent doesn’t have to climb stairs or worry that they might forget routine checks. My parent’s house had a major water leak that ended up costing thousands to repair. This sensor will send an alert to your smartphone.
- As we age our ability to judge distances and spaces may be impaired. This laser garage parking system helps your older parent know where to place their car in the garage to avoid dings and bumps. I remember being in the car with my grandmother when she misjudged the how close she was to the back wall and ended knocking a pretty good hole in the back wall of their garage. It didn’t do much for the front end of her car either!
- You may notice a correlation between your parent’s age and the mess in their refrigerator. Older people often have a harder time seeing or reaching items on lower shelves or towards the back. A refrigerator organizing kit makes it easier to corral loose items and to group items into “drawers” for easier retrieval. This will make it less likely that someone strains a back and should cut down on food spoilage.
- Something I worried about a lot was one of my parents taking a fall, especially at night. These outlet cover nightlights help illuminate the path to the bathroom or down the hall so that folks can see where they’re going and obstacles that might be in their path.
Gift services allow parents to treat and care for themselves
Who wouldn’t love a gift certificate to allow them to treat themselves. Other gift certificates allow them to take care of personal health needs that arise for all of us. Ideas include:
- haircuts and other salon services
- dental services
- pharmacy goods and medicine
- restaurant gift cards
- grocery store
Consumable gifts don’t need dusting
Most of our parents have a house full of “stuff”. Many of them have an overabundance of stuff and are trying to downsize. They may be in the process of distributing some of their items already to heirs and the last thing they’re anxious to receive is more physical items that they have to find a place for.
That’s where consumable gifts are sometimes the perfect answer. As long as you give gifts they actually will use, then these gifts can be enjoyed while they last and then they’re not left on a shelf gathering dust.
Ideas might include:
- bath soaps or body washes
- stamps (yes, may older parents still mail their bills and write letters)
- stationary and greeting cards for various occasions
- their favorite snacks
- subscriptions to their favorite newspaper or magazines
- puzzle books (Sudoku and Crosswords seem to be favorites among older adults)
And good old standby gifts
- books (large print if applicable)
- pajamas, gowns, house slippers, bathrobes
- sheets and blankets
- cozy throws and afghans
- socks with non-skid soles
- TV remote controls with large buttons
- Cell phone with large buttons
- outdoor thermometer with large numbers
- a bird feeder and food (be sure to hang it where they can see and enjoy it)
- DVDs of their favorite older TV shows or movies
Holiday shopping doesn’t have to be a chore. Hopefully these suggestions will help you find the perfect gift for the parent who doesn’t live right down the street.
Have you started shopping yet?
If you found this post to be helpful, please share it with your friends on Facebook or pin it to your favorite Pinterest board. And I’d love to hear your suggestions about great gift ideas for older parents.
More posts to make gift buying easier:
My friend Cathy at My Side of 50 has some great suggestions too: