Holiday Gifts for Seniors

By Susan Ayers Walker
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With the holidays around the corner, here are some gifts that are ideal for your loved ones.

Note: This article was written for the 2008 holiday season. Be sure to also read our 2009 holiday gift guide!

The gift of memories

Even if a senior has never been interested in writing, the LifeBio Memory Journal is a clever way to jog memories and pass along stories and wisdom to younger family members. After each question is sufficient space to capture handwritten answers.

The journal asks more than 250 questions, such as "How would you describe your mother to someone who never met her?" and "What skills did you inherit from your parents?" It includes questions that ask writers to recall a favorite birthday party from childhood or to describe the neighborhood they grew up in. The answers can also be transferred to an online LifeBio e-journal and merged with scanned photos to become a hardbound LifeBio Book, which can be printed (at additional cost) once or in multiple copies.

To order: LifeBio

Cost: $20 (journal only)


The Jenda Voice Calendar provides a simple solution for keeping things organized, using friendly reminders recorded in your own or another familiar voice. The calendar lets you record weekly, monthly, and yearly reminders, as well as messages for specific dates. Nicely suited for the kitchen, it comes with magnets for mounting on a refrigerator, or it can sit on a counter.

It's easily set up to remind you about important regular events, like upcoming birthdays and anniversaries, as well as mundane tasks such as taking the dog to the vet or picking up a prescription. Programming is easy, with an electronic voice walking you through the steps.

To hear a day's reminders is simply a matter of touching a button. The Jenda speaks the day of the week, the date, and a list of any prerecorded reminders or messages for that day.

To order: Jenda

Cost: $40


For the hobbyist

If you're caring for a senior who laments the fact that his old vinyl music collection is gathering dust, the Ion LP 2 CD converter does exactly what its name implies: converts LPs to CDs. Actually, it converts all manner of vinyl -- 33-1/3, 45, and 78 rpm recordings. It's simply a matter of playing an album on the turntable and recording a CD on the internal CD burner.
In addition, the LP 2 CD comes with software for easy importing to an iTunes library.

To order: Ion

Cost: $399, depending on features


Outdoor activities like gardening or golf can take a toll on the hands. The Bionic Glove is designed to reduce this wear and tear. Designed with "anatomical relief pads" between the hand's bony prominences, the gloves give wearers more grip control and provide greater grip strength than typical gloves for outdoor use, while causing less fatigue.

Bionic Gloves are available for a variety of uses and come in several colors in both men's and women's sizes.

To order: Bionic Gloves

Cost: $30-$45


For older and less mobile seniors, bird-watching -- from the kitchen window, that is -- can be an involving and rewarding pastime. But if squirrels or oversized blue jays are dominating (and diminishing) songbirds' food supply, assertive action may be called for. One nonviolent option is the Squirrel Buster bird feeder.

This unique feeder keeps large birds and squirrels from hogging all the bird seed. How? It has an adjustable, weight-sensitive metal skirt that drops down with the weight of a squirrel or a large bird, shutting off all six of the seed ports at the same time

To order: Duncraft

Cost: $50


Ever notice how the elderly always ask about the weather? That may be because they're more sensitive to temperature extremes -- especially to cold. A Wireless Home Weather Station can give them firsthand knowledge of what's going on, and they won't even have to step outside their home. This compact device measures both outdoor and indoor temperatures as well as relative humidity, air pressure, and pressure trends.

The weather station comes with a wireless sensor that sends outdoor readings, within a 300-foot range, to the indoor station. It also has a built-in indoor thermometer, hygrometer, barometer, and atomic clock. Now you can ask the senior you're caring for, "How's the weather?"

To order: Wireless Home Weather Stations

Cost: $50 and up


For elderly gardeners who are no longer mobile enough to putter around the yard, or who live in an apartment, there's the Aero Garden. This herb garden kit comes with a three-pod seed kit, salad dressing and a marinade maker, a guide to cooking with fresh herbs, and a flexible cutting mat.

There's also an Aero Garden available for tomatoes and another just for flowers -- a fun way to garden all year long, right in the kitchen.

To order: The Aero Garden

Cost: $150


For home and travel

Seniors who like to travel but are a little unsteady will find the Bath Safety Grip -- a portable, 12-inch grab bar -- great for providing some extra stability in a hotel bathroom, on a cruise, or just visiting overnight with the grandchildren.

The lightweight grab bar is sturdy and easily attaches to any smooth surface. The two suction grips are strong enough to provide the support needed when entering a bathtub or shower. It can be used just about anywhere an extra grip is needed.

To order: First Street

Cost: $17


The Loc8tor -- a personal homing device -- helps find those pesky possessions that always seem to disappear right in the house: eyeglass cases, car keys, checkbooks, remotes, you name it.
Simply attach a tag to any item you want to find or protect. Set the homing device to the "locate" mode, and the audio will beep while the on-screen directional display guides you to mislaid items. In addition, the "alert" mode provides an invisible safety zone and alerts you with audiovisual and vibration alarms if a tagged item is removed from a set boundary area.

T o order: Loc8tor

Cost: $80


With a Nintendo Wii Sport console, participants of all ages can't help but get up and exercise. The console attaches to a TV, and all games are played while watching the TV and using a remote control.
The basic Wii comes with familiar games like bowling and golf that require players to go through the motions of rolling a ball or swinging a club. Add a Wii Fit to the mix, and you'll be doing yoga exercises, skiing, and playing hula hoop games -- not unlike having a personal trainer in the home.
The Wii Fit balance board sits on the floor and looks like an oversize bathroom scale. It not only measures and tracks weight but also determines a person's balance point. It includes more than 40 games and exercises that use the board's measurement capabilities.
Note: Wii is very popular, so you may have to order online.

To order: Nintendo

Cost: $315 for the Wii console; $115 for Wii Fit


You don't want an elderly person doing too much climbing on ladders -- even stepladders. The Aktiv Reacher, ideal for kitchens, grabs items stored in high cabinets. Its jaws can open to narrow or wide settings for items large and small. The handle is smartly angled and the rubber-coated surface ensures a secure grip. Because the jaws of the Reacher can be set in two positions, it can be used both horizontally and vertically.

To order: Elderluxe

Cost: $22


Simple-to-use is the way to go with tech-wary seniors. Jitterbug is a no-frills voice phone. Just open the clamshell and hear a familiar dial tone. The number buttons are large and back-lit, and the screen is easy to read. The phone offers many familiar functions that most seniors grew up with. Those who purchase the Jitterbug can choose an affordable service plan tailored to the low-minutes user -- and it comes with no binding contracts.

To order: Jitterbug

Cost: $147 for the phone; plans begin as low as $10 per month


The ClarityLife C900 is a sound-amplified mobile phone that doubles as an emergency response device. The one-touch red heart button on the back of the phone calls and sends text messages to five preprogrammed numbers, such as those of family, friends, neighbors, or emergency personnel. It cycles through the five contacts until someone picks up.

ClarityLife C900 can be added to many existing family mobile phone plans. Check local providers for service.

To order: ClarityLife

Cost: $269.95; payment plans extra


Even if the senior you're caring for doesn't use a computer, she can enjoy viewing digital photos -- family portraits, scenic shots, and more -- with a Ceiva Digital Photo Frame.

The frame can be preloaded with up to 70 digital photos or be plugged into a home phone line to receive transmitted photos. Using the phone line (an optional feature at additional cost), the frame silently dials a local number each night to receive new photos e-mailed to the frame, without interruption to phone service or charges to the phone line.

To order: Ceiva

Cost: $150, including one free year of Picture Plan service


Pet ownership is out of the question for many seniors due to their living arrangements or other restrictions. An alternative: Pleo, a "life-form" pet (these toys mimic the basic traits of a live pet). Pleo is designed to entertain and relate to humans on a personal level.

While ordinary robots mimic function, movement, or performance, they're limited to specific tasks, which results in a mechanical toy lacking emotion. Pleo is designed to demonstrate expressive behaviors and sounds that engage a person to interact with it.

To order: Pleo

Cost: $349


Using the Presto Printing Mailbox, seniors can receive and print e-mail and digital photos without a computer.

Automatically converting and printing digital content, the Presto doesn't require a dedicated line, and it doesn't interfere with using the house phone.

Ideal for receiving and printing photos, personalized newsletters, and e-mail, the Presto functions as a kind of indoor mailbox.

To order: Presto

Cost: $149 for the printer; $13 monthly for the delivery service


Stocking stuffers

Nothing pleases older relatives more than receiving personalized holiday gifts from family members. Shutterfly has a way to get the whole family involved. Use some favorite family digital photos to adorn a set of coffee mugs, the pages of a calendar, or photo magnets for the fridge door. Grandparents will treasure a four-by-four-inch customized "brag book" or photo playing cards made just for them. Or brighten their day with a pet photo mug or photo key chain. Plus many more gifts to select from under $25.

To order: Shutterfly

Cost: $25 and under


One gift that's bound to be consumed is a food basket. Harry & David is a company known for its quality and reliability. From its fresh fruit baskets to beautifully wrapped gift towers of fancy chocolates and confections, Harry & David makes it easy to satisfy just about anyone's taste. The fruit-of-the-month club offers something to look forward to every 30 days.

Order from: Harry & David

Cost: Prices vary


By now, most folks are familiar with Netflix. How about the book lover's equivalent? This might be the year to underwrite a gift subscription to BookSwim, the first online book rental library service that lends out paperbacks and hardcovers.

Like Netflix, the service sends books directly to the recipient's home. Whether it's a new release, best seller, or classic, BookSwim seems to have something for everyone -- including free shipping both ways. Subscribers can spend as long as they'd like with a book -- no late fees -- and send it back when they're ready for the next book.

To order: Book Swim

Cost: Rental plans start at $10 per month