Are you shopping for a senior this holiday season? When seniors are asked what they want for holiday gifts (and birthdays and other occasions too), the answer is inevitably, “Oh, I don’t need a thing.”

While seniors who have the means generally buy what they need and want for themselves, others just do without. It still leaves family members and friends with the dilemma of what to give as gifts to their elders as a sign of love and respect.

In a survey conducted by a Salem, Oregon senior center, the leading preference was gift certificates for favorite restaurants. Other types of gift certificates were also popular, such as for events and travel, such as airline vouchers, or even credit toward a cruise. The third choice was cash. Food gifts were welcome as long as the giver takes into account the recipient’s preferences and dietary needs. Also suggested were donations to a favorite charity.

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But by a huge margin, seniors wished for time with children and grandchildren. Family photos were mentioned by nearly every person responding. When asked about holiday festivities, more than twice as many seniors responding would choose a large family dinner with plenty of noise and children over a smaller dinner with individuals or small groups. Some also suggested certificates for the kind of “work projects” they found difficult from children and grandchildren.

Isn’t it becoming clear here? Seniors don’t really want your presents. They want your presence. They want company, conversation, and to feel a part of the extended family. They want to know their grandchildren better. There is truly nothing more precious and valuable than someone’s time.

So instead of going to the mall, get in the car or on an airplane and make a visit part of your holiday giving. Or send that ticket to your aging relatives and treat them to a trip to your home for the holidays. Create special memories and don’t forget to take plenty of photos that can go home with your relatives.

Oh and the gifts hardly ever cited: clothing or health and beauty products. Everyone who’s ever been guilty of giving a robe and slippers or a bottle of perfume, raise your hand!

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