What to Buy Your Senior for the Holidays.

This article also appeared in the Beverly Hills Courier, December 2010.

Having a hard time finding that perfect holiday gift for the special senior in your life? You’re not alone. Ask him or her for a hint and you’ll likely hear, “I have everything I need.” Or you’ll get another common response, “Don’t spend any money on me.”

When you don’t have a lot to work with, turn the problem around and start with your intention, keeping the end result in mind. Is it safety you’re after? Do you want to make them smile? Do they need mental stimulation? Or perhaps something practical? We’ve created a quick guide with more of a goal orientation to assist you in your search.

Lighthearted always scores. Want to make a senior smile? Have the grandchildren create something. Compile favorite family memories and create a themed photo book. Don’t have time for a homemade gift? Buy them something silly, like a gnome for the garden or a book of jokes.

Safety concerns? Slippers are always a smart choice. A pair with soles that have extra grip can help prevent falls. Along those lines, any assistive device that helps a senior perform everyday activities with ease or otherwise helps to safeguard the home will bring you peace of mind.

Practicality can’t hurt. Everyday items, such as postage stamps, are a great gift idea, especially if you want to encourage your senior to write to others. So are light bulbs—and for good visibility, the brighter the better.

Stimulating mental activity. The key here is to find something that already piques their interest. Seek out a large-print book about a subject that will engage their mind. Unwrap and collaborate on a large-piece puzzle that features a favorite vacation spot or the breed of dog they once owned and loved.

And if all else fails, we recommend giving something to charity in the name of your senior. Meals on Wheels, the well-known charity that provides meals to seniors, is a great option among many. Whatever you decide, don’t agonize over a gift; it’s really all about the spirit of the season, and it’s the thought that counts. Happy Holidays!

Jack C. Merrick is the co-owner and co-executive director of Good Company Senior Care, an independent, in-home caregiver service with offices in Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties.