Let’s face it. The older someone gets, the harder it is to buy holiday gifts for him or her. How many sweaters and ties do you need after all? My wife and I stopped exchanging gifts because frankly, we get what we need all year round!

What do you do for older folks who may have downsized, who are living in elder communities or who simply don’t have the mental and/or physical capacity to enjoy gifts in the traditional sense? Well, you get creative. Here are five ideas.

Keep Old Traditions Alive and Start New Ones

My mom, who passed away in June, terribly missed Christmas Eve dinners in south Philadelphia. She cooked them all for as long as I can remember. Being Italian, of course we had the meal of the seven fishes and then some. The “then some” included her famous homemade meatballs and her escarole soup. And she always made the pizzelles, traditional Italian waffle cookies.

When she relocated to North Carolina after my sister’s passing, we tried to keep these traditions alive. She would come over to our house and make the meatballs, the soup and the cookies. And when she was physically unable, she supervised. Was it a perfect recreation of her memories? No, but she did value these pieces of tradition that took her back home.

We also started new traditions like going to the Southern Christmas Show here in Charlotte, North Carolina. So, honor the old and bring in something new.

Give the Gift of Time

Older people value friendship and companionship. And while my mom had that in her senior community, it was important that she and I have some new traditions that she could look forward to every week. When my sister did this with mom it was usually a movie night, or she would go one night with her to play bingo at the Moose Lodge.

I started taking her to dinner and then to the mall. Mom walked with a walker. There were certain things that could make her move like the roadrunner in her walker. They were racing to a slot machine, stealing away for a cigarette and walking the mall. She would never buy anything, or if she did, it would be returned shortly afterwards. Still, she liked the routine. Find some way to make time for an older person.

Cook a Meal

According to Meals on Wheels America, one in six seniors struggle with hunger issues. Hard to believe. In fact, as a healthcare conference speaker, I addressed this very issue at a Meals on Wheels conference a few years back. Cooking a meal for a senior. Hosting a meal for a senior.

Preparing meals for seniors that they can easily reheat. Having a meal delivery service bring meals. These are gifts whose abundance can be measured because healthy seniors can age in place and avoid hospitalizations.

Run Errands

It may be hard for some older folks to get around, so maybe you can help. Take their car for a wash and wax. Go grocery shopping for them. Take them to the bank or a doctor’s appointment.

Pay It Forward

Older folks on fixed incomes would never ask for help when it comes to money. So turn that into a gift opportunity. Pay the newspaper or cable bill. Pay someone to do the yard work or clean the house. It not only saves them time and money but also prevents potential hazards like falling when doing housework.

The simple gifts of friendship and companionship often are the most thoughtful and appreciated. So instead of gifting that Christmas plate this year, put a little more thought into ideas for gifts that your older loved one would truly value. Sometimes the best gift is YOU!

What is your favorite gift to receive at the holidays? Your favorite gift to give? How has your gift-giving changed over the years? Please join the conversation.

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