FORT WALTON BEACH — Looking to give your senior loved one something special this holiday season?
You don’t need a big budget or a creative gift list.
What seniors want the most could simply be assistance with holiday preparations and activities, according to one local expert.
“The aging process, which can cause changes in vision, hearing and mobility, often sidelines a senior during the holidays, limiting their ability to enjoy so many of the traditions that are important to that generation,” said Todd Harrell, owner of Home Instead Senior Care, which serves Okaloosa and Walton counties. “That’s why the most valued gift for many seniors is assistance to continue to shop for gifts, bake Christmas cookies and tour the holiday lights.”
Here are 10 possible gifts for senior loved ones:
• Shop — but not until you drop. Conditions such as macular degeneration, which leads to poor eyesight and inability to drive, can make shopping difficult for older adults. Take seniors to their favorite store or make online shopping memorable. Tune into seniors’ limitations.
• Keep food traditions alive. Food can play an important role in the holidays for seniors. If an older adult can no longer cook the traditional holiday meal, offer to carry on the tradition, asking the senior to help where he or she can.
• Make a special delivery. Arthritis can make wrapping holiday presents a challenge; so can shipping gifts to loved ones. Schedule a gift-wrapping afternoon, complete with hot chocolate, cookies and plenty of family stories.
• Deck the halls. Carting out holiday ornaments isn’t always possible for an older adult with a bad back or weak muscles — neither is stringing lights or hanging ornaments. Make it a multigenerational activity by sending over the grandkids or great-grandchildren.
• Send holiday greetings. The handwritten Christmas card is a tradition for this generation of seniors. Offer to spend an afternoon writing greetings. If that’s not possible, an online photo greeting card can be just as good (and save the cost of cards and stamps).
• Sing along. Caroling is a fun activity for almost any age. Get a group of your senior loved one’s friends together to serenade other older adults in an assisted living facility or nursing home.
• Celebrate the reason for the season. Faith and holiday programs can bring joy to older adults. Be flexible and change traditions if necessary. For instance, attend early Christmas Eve service, not midnight Mass.
• Focus on others. Volunteering to assist others can help seniors focus on someone else’s needs instead of their own. Get the entire family involved in gathering supplies for a homeless shelter or serving a holiday meal.
• Stay connected. The holidays can be a sad time for seniors separated from their families. Help an older adult connect with loved ones far away with the latest technology, such as Skype.
• The gift of time. Sometimes, all an older adult wants is companionship, whether it’s a few moments of the day or a driving tour to view holiday lights. If you are short of time, consider the assistance of a family friend, neighbor or caregiver.