The Oldish Gift Guide 2021

It’s Gift Guide time again! Buying for older adults who may want for very little or live in small spaces without room for excess can be challenging. For the past several years we’ve been pleased to bring you our Oldish Gift Guide and this year we have 75 suggestions for you. Some are no cost or low cost while others are geared toward having multiple contributors to the cost. Every year we add a few and take away a few but the list continues to grow. For our 2021 Gift Guide, we have included items that can be useful in home modifications to support those who are living independently.

The trend toward minimalist living remains strong and we want to focus on items that can be used rather than stored. Increasing socialization, sustaining hobbies and connections or providing safe, healthy environments while saving our energy for the things that matter are top of mind.

Bookmark this guide as it will provide ideas all year ‘round for a birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or just because.

As always, our very first suggestion is time. While everyone appreciates the thought that goes into choosing that perfect gift, time really is the most treasured commodity. Enjoy!

  • Time… the number one thing seniors want is to spend time with you. Make a regular date but be sure to organize small gatherings throughout the holidays. Be creative if you are geographically separated or health safety concerns are a factor: using Skype, FaceTime or Facebook Messenger, share some holiday cheer from your individual locations, eat a meal together, open gifts together, watch movies together or read a book together taking turns reading pages or chapters.
  • Digital picture frame loaded with family pictures and holiday memories – be sure that it’s easily operated as complicated things can be terribly frustrating. This item has been on our list for a few years but don’t forget that updating an existing memory stick with new pictures is a welcome gift.
  • Favorite music downloaded onto an iPod or CD – for a senior challenged by dementia, music from their youth and courting days can bring back beautiful memories. Don’t forget comfortable headphones.
  • Subscription to satellite radio – pre-program favorite music or talk stations as an added help.
  • Replacing round drawer pulls and door knobs with U-shaped drawer pulls and lever door handles is a helpful modification for arthritic hands.
  • Gift certificate: So much choice so here are some suggestions: a favourite restaurant, groceries, movies, carpet cleaning, house cleaning service, or a gym membership.
  • Home assistants such as Alexa, Siri or Hey Google can make chores like turning lighting on or off or adjusting temperatures can save energy for an older adult who now has to physically do such tasks. While getting up and walking is always a good idea, the ability to ask lights to come on in a room one intends to enter can be a trip and fall reducer. Dimming vision can make properly adjusting temperatures challenging so simply being able to ask for the temperature one wants is a great help. Choose the system that is most comfortable and connects with existing tech in the home. As always, make sure to change the default password to guarantee security.
  • Low vision playing cards.
  • Playing cardholder.
  • Membership to senior’s exercise class –many classes have gone online and many have once again began operation but a subscription or membership may still be required.
  • Weights, skipping rope and stretch bands for those who prefer to work out at home.
  • Fidget aprons/lap blankets/pillows are made by many volunteer groups and are a terrific gift for anyone with moderate to advanced stages of dementia. Designed to stimulate the senses and occupy restless fingers various activities such as buttons, ribbons, buckles, pockets, colorful materials and more are sewn onto a base allowing multiple activities for the user. Buy from your local volunteer group – check out libraries and churches, there are many options on Etsy or search the Internet for inspiration and make your own.
  • For loved ones who are aging in place, consider pre-paying for services that some find challenging like winter snow removal, window washing, grass cutting, power washing the siding or getting the gardens in shape spring and fall.
  • Puzzles – either jigsaw or crossword … both are available in larger sizes to save eye strain. For older adults who are Internet savvy online, multiplayer games like Mahjong or Scrabble are good for engagement and socialization.
  • Outdoor security lighting to illuminate stairs, doors, the path to the garage or backyard areas.
  • Foot Care Gift Certificates would be a much-appreciated gift. Proper care of feet, especially in older populations is vital to continued independence. When people are less able to cut their own toenails due to deterioration of eyesight or range of motion, it can lead to painful conditions and an increased fall risk. Source a local clinic with Chiropodists or nurses certified in basic and advanced foot care. If your loved one lives in long-term or nursing care, the facility may be able to direct you to professionals who already come in to care for residents.
  • Cash is always a good gift but we suggest that you have some fun with the presentation. An envelope of bills isn’t as much fun as a gift with a ribbon around it. Consideration could be given to prepaying a year of cable tv, adding a fun new channel and then wrapping up something that demonstrates the gift. Or perhaps prepaying the hydro bill and then wrapping up a book to be read by the light that has been ‘gifted.’
  • Wander, safety or fall alarms with subscriptions, downloadable apps for caregivers and emergency notification systems.
  • New pillow covers made from favourite pieces of clothing worn by loved ones who have passed away or things that carry memories of events that took place when they were worn but no longer fit.
  • Back scrubber for those with a limited range of motion.
  • Services such as Instacart, UberEats or DoorDash are catering to shut-ins by providing grocery and pharmacy deliveries. Be sure to check reviews of service providers specific to the area your gift recipient lives in.
  • Cane tip for winter snow and ice.
  • Respite time to allow a caregiver to have some personal time away to get their hair done, go out to lunch with friends or just take a walk in the park. Commit to whatever you can give, put it on a coupon card and encourage the caregiver to make an appointment to use the coupon.
  • Travellers will appreciate the ability to continue their explorations through programs like Amazon’s Explore which takes viewers on adventures from the comfort of their homes.
  • Hip protectors for those at risk of a hip fracture – call the toll-free number for assistance in choosing the correct model and options. Note that this is often on the list of supplies recommended in long term or nursing care so wrap these up with a bit of candy and satisfy the needed list together with the sweets that will bring a smile.
  • Tablet with apps such as Skype/Facetime, Scrabble, Solitaire and email pre-loaded – don’t forget to teach them how to use the apps.
  • Replacing faucets with no touch or touchless faucets is a gift for the kitchen and bathroom that will benefit so many from people with arthritic hands to those with range of motion challenges in addition to cooks who prefer not to touch anything after handling poultry.
  • Subscription to a favorite magazine – check to see if they have a large print edition
  • Automatic night lights that react to motion are always a good idea. Ideal for the path from bed to bathroom.
  • LED light strips are cheap and cheerful these days and can be installed wherever a boost of light is needed. Use them to indicate stair treds, provide a bit of extra light under kitchen cabinets or inside medicine cabinets.
  • For seniors with early-stage dementia items such as a magnetic whiteboard for the fridge and Post-It notes to label cupboards and drawers.
  • Coupons for rides to the doctor, mall or community event are useful provided you can commit to the gift. Getting people out and about to avoid social isolation is key to good health so this is a good one for those who depend on others to get out of the house.
  • Adaptive clothing is a welcome gift for someone with limited range of motion. There is a wide range available and some very pretty styles. A favourite of The Oldish is Silverts – so much so that we have an affiliate link on our sister website page, Brown Healthcare.
  • FireAvert is a device that shuts power off to your stove when the smoke alarm sounds from food left unattended. Invented by a firefighter and featured on Shark Tank, the device is available for electric or gas stoves.
  • Slippers, shoes or boots with really good tread to replace the ones that have worn-down tread that are a slip and fall hazard. Hint: don’t forget to make sure the old ones get thrown out.
  • Items that support hobbies are always welcome. Many of us have been exploring new interests as we are spending more time in our homes so online education classes and supplies to either get a hobby off the ground or sustain an existing hobby make a great gift.   https://www.theoldish.com/hobbies-to-sustain-you-through-winter/
  • An account with the local taxi company with pre-paid rides or a transit pass – This is a gift the whole family can contribute to for a senior aging in place who no longer drives. The account can be added to for birthdays, Mother’s/Father’s Day, Easter or any occasion.
  • Squatty Potty was invented to help people poop from a more natural position. It isn’t uncommon for older adults to become constipated due to inactivity so a little help may be in order. Available in original white plastic as well as bamboo, teak and models called Moonlight and Eclipse that feature a motion-activated light.
  • Bidet toilet seats were all the rage last year but a bidet toilet is a gentle, sanitary tool for those who have range of motion issues as well. Many are available with optional warm water ability, but you’ll need to install an electrical outlet behind the toilet to have this function properly so make that part of the gift.
  • Gift boxes no doubt there’s a gift box that will make everyone happy no matter if they like cheese, coffee, wine, socks, meat, candy, razors, underwear, cocktails, plants, eco-friendly cleaning supplies, ties, snacks or, well, you get the drift. There’s a smorgasbord of gift boxes available with deliveries varying from monthly to quarterly to annually so do your homework and match your recipient to the perfect gift.
  • A can opener might be just the thing to make a comeback for someone who loves to cook and bake. Many people switched to manual handheld can openers over the past couple of decades however there are some newer models of both manual and electric can openers that are one-handed operations and sit beautifully on the counter. Look for those that cut the side of the can, reducing the opportunity for fingers to be cut by sharp lids. We haven’t tested the models so do your research.
  • A selection of greeting cards to have handy including birthday, anniversary and condolence cards – don’t forget a roll of stamps. Go the extra mile and print off sheets of return address labels and, if you can get your hands on the recipient’s address book you can also consider pre-addressed peel and stick labels.
  • Easy Daysies is a task scheduling system for older adults aging in place who need support to continue living independently. Task stickers that fit on magnets remind them to eat, take medication, have a shower, turn the stove off or call someone to check in.
  • Frozen single-serving meals with warming instructions written or taped to the cover.
  • If you don’t have time to prepare homemade meal gifts, consider one of the many local meal delivery services that have popped up. With everything premeasured and handy instructions included, this is a great gift for cooks who want a bit of a hand with the sous chef duties. The Food Network tested four popular services and you can check out their recommendations at this link. This is a gift the whole family can contribute to and support your local community in the process! Next best thing? Check with local churches and social service organizations who fund raise by making meat pies for the freezer.
  • An early gift of a plate of Christmas goodies would be welcome to many this year. With a prohibition on visiting, many won’t be doing as much holiday baking so sharing the gift of your baking talents gives an older adult some sweet treats – a package of refills would be nice to include.
  • Ring Doorbells to allow seniors to answer the door without rushing or perhaps identify door to door salespeople they don’t want to deal with – be sure to get the Ring Pro which is the wired option for use in cold climates. The Oldish tested Ring Pro and found it abundantly helpful for answering doorbells whether we were at home or away.
  • Adult coloring book and crayons – very popular and calming not to mention creative.
  • Gift cards to favourite online shops are always a good gift. Don’t forget that most grocery stores sell gift cards.
  • Car handles come in several varieties including handles that slip into the car door latch or are attached to the top of the car window frame and are intended to give extra support to seniors upon entering or exiting a car. Brands like CarCaddie, Stander or Emson Car Cane can be found in stores and online.
  • Audiobooks are useful in so many ways. They don’t strain the eyes, they can be listened to anywhere and they don’t take up physical space. Pick your recipient’s favourite service whether it’s iTunes, Audible, Kindle or something else and load them up on gift cards. Another thing the whole family can contribute to and keep going for other occasions like Mother’s Day or birthdays.
  • A Podcast library is a wonderful gift that is low cost yet passes time while it educates and amuses the listener. Most news organizations have podcasts and no matter your interest you’ll be able to find lots of them to pass the time. The good news is that new episodes load automatically. Simply make a list, choose a player such as iTunes, Stitcher or Spotify and then subscribe to the ones you’ve chosen. A few of my personal favourite podcasts are Clear + Vivid (Alan Alda), Armchair Expert (Dax Shepard – language warning), We Regret to Inform You (you’d be amazed at the things that have been rejected), The Way I Heard It (Mike Rowe), Under the Influence (Terry O’Reily – fascinating view of advertising) and White Coat Black Art (medical focus).
  • Non-breakable water bottle with an attachment for wheelchair/walker – the more colorful, the better but make sure the grip is good for the person who will be using it.
  • Large button TV remote.
  • Window bird feeders are sure to provide hours of pleasure. Make sure to include your own service of refilling the birdseed throughout the season!
  • Calendar for the upcoming year with family/friend birthdays, anniversaries and events noted.
  • Warm, cozy blanket and for those who need calming due to anxiety, consider a weighted blanket.The Oldish has tested the Hush weighted blanket and loved it! Outside of Canada use this link.
  • An experience is something the entire family can participate in, share the cost and make wonderful memories. Think of dinner and a concert, an immersive art exhibit such as Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, teamLAB or AREA15, a day skiing at a resort nobody has been to or a special cooking class. Anything that can make memories is a gift to savour!
  • Cell phone with large keys specifically for seniors, prepaid if you can manage it.
  • New winter coat, scarf, hat or mittens.
  • memory journal is a great gift for the whole family! Several are available through booksellers but most feature guided questions that help aging seniors remember stories and life events from days gone by. Over time questions can be asked and journaled as they are answered providing a keepsake that details family history.
  • A chore calendar for families to support seniors who are aging in place. Some of the most difficult tasks because of low vision, inability to smell or challenges with getting around are things like house cleaning, food shopping, laundry, yard work and getting to appointments so if you have a few family members living close by, make a calendar assigning rotating duties to each member … don’t forget to add changing batteries in things like smoke detectors and remote controls.
  • Grab bars installed in bathrooms, along hallways or by the bed or favourite chairs. Proper installation is a must so include that in the gift. Note that grab bars need to be installed into proper 2×10 backing which may also need to be installed if the studs aren’t available at an appropriate place. This could involve removing drywall, installing the backing and then repairing the dry wall. Don’t make the mistake of trying to secure a grab bar into drywall as it won’t be secure when it’s really needed.
  • Light therapy lamps are popular for people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or just feel a bit sluggish as they miss the summer sunshine. The Oldish has tested the Circadian Optics Lumos 2.0 Light Therapy Lamp after seeing it on Shark Tank – love it! – and it can be purchased through Amazon.
  • Medication organizer 
  • Garden kneeler Many are reversible, meaning that in an upright position they are seating platforms while turned over they are kneelers with bars to aid in getting up and down.
  • Long Shoehorn to aid with getting shoes and boots on.
  • Non-slip socks are great for those who prefer to walk around the house shoeless or get up in the middle of the night and can never find their slippers.
  • One cup coffee or tea brewer.
  • Comfy new sweatpants or bathrobe. Consider sweatpants with built-in hip protection.
  • For later-stage dementia patients, a stuffed animalor doll to cuddle.
  • Nordic Walking Poles for active seniors who enjoy fitness walks or even those who need a bit of encouragement and safety to ramp up their walking habit.
  • Homemade gift baskets are so personal and sweet. Fill them up with favourite candy, some silly socks, a few gift cards, a new t-shirt with a great saying or picture and maybe a few things from the list above. Spend as much or as little as you want for a basket that is the perfect size.
  • For those with a bit more of a budget, think about backyard sheds. We may love our family but a place to call our own is welcome as a refuge for that yoga practice, working on a hobby or just a quiet place to sit and read. There are lots of ready-built versions but there are some that ship ready for assembly or for those with some knowledge, plans and drawings are available online.
  • Etsy has so many ideas for customized gifts that are not only unique but by using the filters you can support local makers. A quick peruse found customized kitchen aprons, welcome door mats that can be personalized with beloved or quirky family greetings, bespoke t-shirts or pillows, personalized puzzles or mugs to savour morning coffee and the list goes on.