Finding parents the right holiday gifts can get harder as the years go by—so many of our best ideas have already been implemented. Also, as our formerly more-active parent(s) age, it can be challenging to come up with the perfect age- and energy-appropriate gift.
If you're thinking that there's nothing new to give the people who've known us all our lives, then it's time to think about this challenge a bit differently. Not all gifts come wrapped.
Before you say that your schedule won't accommodate it, or that you live too far away, see what options are available for celebrating The 12 Days of Presence—both in person and from a distance.
In-Person Gift Options
When you and your parent(s) live in the same town—or at least close by—the best gifts are those you deliver in person.
If your parent(s) still live at home…
1. Help with the heavy lifting that makes the holiday come: cooking, decorating, cleaning.... When we were kids, it was fun to watch mom and dad do the work. This year, pitch in.
2. Host a work-at-home day, by offering to help make simple repairs, rearrange cabinets, or address accessibility issues like getting that shower bench or installing some grab bars.
If your parent(s) live in a senior community…
3. Join them for Bingo or for a meal in the dining room. Who doesn't like to show off their attractive kids to their new friends? It also reminds the management that your folks have family members they love.
4. Become a professional organizer, by creating systems to keep on top of medications or financial papers. A widow/er may appreciate help with managing their clothes or sorting family photos.
If a parent no longer drives…
5. Give your parent(s) "wheels" again, by taking them out to share a favorite meal or to a store they rarely get to visit now. Plus, it can be fun to spend an afternoon touring the old neighborhood.
6. Stock up on regular supplies, such as laundry detergent and personal needs. You'll be extending their holiday cheer by giving them one less thing to worry about in January and February.
Longer-Distance Gift Options
Thirty years of long-distance daughtering has taught me a thing or two about how to be genuinely present from far away, to supplement my regular in-person visits, which are less frequent by necessity.
Wherever your parent(s) live…
7. "I just wanted to hear your voice." When you can't be there in person, the phone is your best friend. Some parent(s) want to schedule a regular phone/video chat; others will prefer to keep things flexible.
8. Give a gift card for getting together. Don't just think of gift cards for physical gifts; choose a gift card that comes with an activity attached, like hosting a dinner out with friends.
9. Support a new hobby. If your parent(s) are getting involved in new—or revisiting some cherished old—activities, make things more fun by offering a new swimsuit for water aerobics or canvases for art class.
10. Create a photo book. Get those great family pics off of your phone and out where they can be enjoyed and shared. If a parent's not on Facebook, capture photos they'd otherwise miss.
If a parent no longer drives...
11. Pre-arrange a series of rides to church, the barber, or former regular haunts like a favorite breakfast place. It's actually much harder than you think for a parent to request and get regular rides.
12. Set up their holiday cards, all year round. My widower dad enjoyed sending holiday cards, once he had me to send him everything he needed: nice cards with their envelopes pre-return addressed and stamped, so that all he had to do was address and sign. This gift can save them a lot of running around if you add cards needed throughout the year—get well, birthday, sympathy, blank....
Then, if all else fails and you still need a gift idea for your elderly parents, simply revert to the popular four-gift challenge that's recommended for children, yet appropriate for all ages: "Something they want, Something they need, Something to wear, Something to read."
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