Weekly column in the Washington Times Communities by Laurie Edwards-Tate

Even if you have been able to ignore the ads for holiday shopping on television before Halloween, Thanksgiving week is here and you know you cannot put off buying gifts much longer.

Most people have a difficult time choosing the right gift for someone on their gift-giving list. Often it is an older relative or friend. Shopping for seniors can be perplexing. Sometimes it seems they have everything they need. Or perhaps you are simply out of touch with their current interests.

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. But they are reluctant to admit their needs. The older generations were taught to give and not receive, to be stoic and refrain from complaining.

Whatever the reason, 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, and a real bonus included the transportation to get there and a cheerful dining companion. (That would be you).

Other types of gift certificates were also popular. Some seniors enjoy tickets to events. Assisting with travel costs such as airline vouchers or train fare was welcome, or even credit toward a cruise. The next 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.

But by a huge margin, seniors wished for time with children and grandchildren. Seniors 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.

Another item mentioned by nearly every person responding to the survey: family photos. Some seniors can view digital photos, but others feel left out when the rest of the family is exchanging news and photos online. The activities of children and grandchildren become lost to them without being handed real old-fashioned photos they can enjoy again and again.

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.

In case you may be wondering, what gifts do seniors dread opening? Clothing of varying types, or health and beauty products. Everyone who has ever been guilty of giving a boring sweater, a robe and slippers or a bottle of perfume, raise your hand.

Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!

LifeCycles is intended to provide inspiration and information only. If you are considering any health, dietary, exercise or lifestyle changes based on the information provided here, please seek advice from a qualified professional.
Laurie Edwards-Tate, MS, is President and CEO of At Your Home Familycare in San Diego, California. In addition to her positions as entrepreneur, health care executive, educator, radio segment contributor and media guest, Edwards-Tate is also a wife, daughter, and dog lover. Read more LifeCycles in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow At Your Home Familycare on Facebook and on Twitter @AYHFamilycare.
Copyright © 2011 by At Your Home Familycare

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