Holiday Gift Suggestions for Senior Living Community Residents

Related topics: Senior Life

Seniors opening a gift

Black Friday is upon us, and that's when many people start getting serious about shopping for holiday gifts. Whether your family celebrates Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or another winter celebration, giving gifts is most likely part of the festivities. But when a loved one lives in a skilled nursing facility, selecting the right gift can be challenging. Each year, our family members, friends and volunteers ask for suggestions. Here are some ideas we hope will save you some shopping time!


Select comfortable clothing that fits your loved one's tastes. For a fun touch, your loved one might like a holiday sweatshirt, a shirt imprinted with a family photo, or inexpensive jewelry or holiday pins. Slippers and warm socks are also appreciated. Clothing should be loose fitting and easy to put on, with no difficult fastenings. It should also be machine washable. And be sure to ask staff about marking clothing with your loved one's name.

Books, tapes and media

If your loved one is an avid reader, a book or magazine subscription could be a great gift. Puzzle books and adult coloring books also are popular these days. If your loved one has low vision, find out if large-print books work for them, or invest in an e-book reader, which can turn any written material into large print. Some devices are better than others—ask your loved one's vision specialist if you aren't sure. Books on tape are also good. Load a device with their favorite music, TV shows and movies. If your loved one is somewhat tech-savvy, a tablet computer or smartphone plus your IOU to help them learn can bring in the outside world.

Photo albums or pictures

Put together a scrapbook, album or digital picture frame loaded with family photos. Or bring a family portrait for the wall, even an enlarged photo of a favorite pet. A special, personal gift like this takes some forethought, but your efforts will be appreciated. If your loved one has memory loss, assemble a photo album of significant family members, special events and places, labeled to remind your loved one about who the people are and what the events were.

Room brighteners

Consider room decor that helps personalize your loved one's space, such as a family quilt, a plant, or a special photo collage. Or commission the grandkids to create a work of art especially for your loved one. Ask staff for guidelines about decorating your loved one's room for the holidays. Space is limited, so don't bring oversized gifts or things which will be of little use.

Useful items

The simple things make life more pleasant. How about toiletries and cosmetics, such as lotions, soap, lipstick or blush? Your loved one also might appreciate combs, brushes, or a pretty lap robe. Cosmetic bags are also handy. If your loved one tends to misplace their glasses, a brightly colored glasses strap might be a good choice. Don’t bring expensive or easily misplaced items such as family heirloom jewelry.

Special treats

Check with nursing staff before bringing in food; then, within any dietary guidelines, bring in your loved one's favorite goodies, such as holiday cookies, cakes or fruit. If your loved one has always been the holiday baker in your family, ask for the recipes—those special, traditional treats are especially meaningful. Or bring in a nice meal to share. Avoid bringing perishable foods, or if you do, limit the amount to a single serving.


These days, there's an emphasis on giving experiences rather than stuff. With the "decluttering" movement, people are choosing theater tickets, adventures, museum memberships and tours. If your loved one is a short-term rehab resident, a gift certificate for a future adventure might lift their spirits. If this is their home, plan a party for your loved one and their friends, or a trip out that is appropriate for your loved one's abilities and preferences. Or how about a personalized gift certificate book, with coupons redeemable for manicures, help with letter writing, smartphone tech support, reading aloud, etc.?

Handy health helpers

All kinds of gadgets are available to make it easier to manage medical conditions. How about a medication organizer, an adjustable cane or a new mobility device? If your loved one has vision loss, a magnifying glass or page magnifier can make reading easier. Grabbers and other clever products make it easier to dress and perform other daily activities.

If your loved one has memory loss

The Alzheimer's Association recommends items that aid memory, such as magnetic reminder notepads, a pocket-sized diary or calendar, or a digital calendar clock with the date and time in large type. If you're not sure about whether a gift is appropriate or safe for your loved one, ask staff.

If it's possible, deliver your holiday gifts yourself! A visit from you is the best gift of all.

Source: IlluminAge Communication Partners; copyright 2019 IlluminAge