Keep the senior in your life happy with these gift ideas
A custom-made jigsaw puzzle featuring a photo of the grandkids could be a great gift for the grandparents. (Stock Photo)

If you’re looking to brighten the holidays for seniors, a gift that’s also beneficial might be the way to go. A gift that keeps them active, helps them eat healthier or just lifts their mood will be especially appreciated this year. Here are a few ideas to help you start your shopping list.

Keep them active

A beautiful walking stick is perfect for the older adult who likes to walk in the park, hike or go for treks in the woods where the ground might be unsteady. For those missing the gym, an online exercise class for seniors might be a good option. Even those who are more sedentary can benefit from a set of exercise bands or a pedal exerciser that lets them work their legs while seated. (Make sure your loved one can tuck the exerciser under a desk or table, or that they can easily put it away when not in use to avoid tripping hazards.) For a personal touch, put together a playlist of favorite tunes they can work out to or pair the gift with a voice-activated device that allows them to call up favorite music.

Exercise the mind

Jigsaw or crossword puzzles, a Kindle or even old fashioned hardcover books are great ways to both pass the time and keep the mind sharp. Keep vision and dexterity in mind when purchasing jigsaw or crossword puzzles. Some websites offer custom puzzles where you can order a reproduction of the front page of the newspaper for a specific date or reproduce a favorite photo. You can customize the number of pieces, such as 100 pieces for a simpler task or 1,000 pieces for something more challenging. If there are vision problems, opt for large-print books or include a magnifier. A sleek task light might be welcome as well.

Make eating easy

Most people had to change up meal plans since the pandemic hit — limiting grocery trips or avoiding restaurants. Especially for those who live alone, meal planning can become a drag. Help your loved ones out by offering a gift subscription to a meal service. There are options that deliver all the ingredients they’ll need to cook meals for themselves, or you can choose fresh, packaged meals they can store in the refrigerator and zap in the microwave when they’re ready to eat. Many of the services allow you to tailor the meals to meet special dietary needs or preferences. If you like to cook, you can prepare casseroles they can stockpile for that homemade touch. If allowed, don’t forget a nice bottle of wine!

Be mindful of technology

Technology can be a great way to stay connected, but if you’re buying a gift for a senior who isn’t very tech savvy, the item may just stay in the box and remind them of all the family time they’re missing. If you’re buying a gift like a tablet or e-reader, set it up ahead of time. Load a few books onto the e-reader or subscribe to some podcasts they can listen to on their tablet — anything that will make things easier. For an extra treat, give them a coupon for “tech help” from a grandchild or other family member who can be their virtual go-to when they need assistance.

Keep the mood bright

If anxiety is an issue, a weighted blanket might be a welcome gift. Studies show they can reduce stress and anxiety and improve sleep.

Of course, any gift that keeps your loved ones connected to you year-round can help keep their spirits up during trying times. Create a custom calendar with pictures of grandchildren or other family members, enroll them in a flowers or fruit-of-the-month club or other subscription service where they can look forward to a surprise every month. You can also select a digital photo frame that comes with an app that allows you to send photos from your phone to the frame whenever you have new family updates.

There are so many ways to look after your loved senior this holiday season even if you can’t be together. So make a list and get shopping!

• Teri Dreher is a board-certified patient advocate. A critical care nurse for more than 30 years, she founded Seniors Alone Guardianship & Advocacy Services (, a not-for-profit organization that serves the area’s senior orphans. She also is founder of NShore Patient Advocates, Contact her at (312) 788-2640.