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20 holiday gifts for retirees and near-retirees

Are you frozen by the thought of buying holiday gifts for people who’ve already had a full life of being naughty and nice? Finding presents that your older friends and relatives haven’t already bought for themselves can be nearly impossible. And many of you may have double the difficulty, looking for the perfect gifts for a spouse, siblings, parents and older friends -- and also being asked by your adult children for gift ideas for you. 

But help is on the way. Here’s a list of gift ideas by price range that your older loved ones might actually enjoy. 

Under $50 

1. A favorite toy or game from your recipient’s youth. Think kites, Legos, balls to play catch, jacks, Lincoln Logs, pick-up sticks, a yo-yo or top, a Hula Hoop, a Frisbee, a jigsaw puzzle, Scrabble or Monopoly. Anything without an on-off switch or a screen. Your recipient can invite the grandkids over to play, which will make them happy and help them feel young.

2. Photo souvenirs of family, especially grandchildren. These can include framed pictures, screen savers, Christmas tree ornaments, coffee mugs with kids’ photos on them, mouse pads, coasters, placemats or customized calendars. These are easy to design and order online.

3. CDs of popular childhood songs that they can take them with them and sing along with when they’re visiting younger relatives. Think “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” “The Wheels on the Bus,” “The Hokey-Pokey,” “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” or “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider.” Or in this digital age, develop a playlist for their smartphone. This will put a smile on their face -- and on the children’s. Smiling often is good for health and longevity.

4. Books to help your giftee live long and prosper. Help your recipient with a book that can bolster their security, health and longevity in their retirement years.

5. A gift membership to AARP. This organization’s monthly magazine and newsletter contain a wealth of good information on finances, health and lifestyle, and the organization offers community groups that your giftee can connect with. This alone is worth the $16 annual membership fee (and it’s on sale now for $12). In addition, AARP offers discounts on a variety of items, and its website has links to many helpful services.

6. Arrange to pay for an Uber or Lyft driver to take them out shopping or get them out of the house. This is especially good for older friends and relatives who don’t drive much.

7. A DVD of a favorite movie that might inspire the 50+ audience. Recent winners have been “The Bucket List,” “The Intern,” “Up” and “Hope Springs.” Or what about a classic? “Singing in the Rain,” “The Sound of Music,” “Grease,” “The Sting,” “An American in Paris,” “Les Miserables,” “The Phantom of the Opera” and the Star Wars and Lord of the Ring series are all enjoyable and watchable over and over again.

Another idea: a children’s classic favorite that can be watched with grandchildren when they visit, such as ”Mary Poppins,” “The Princess Bride,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Finding Nemo,” “The Lion King” or any of the kids’ favorite animated movies. 

$50 and higher 

8. Subscription to a streaming video or music service. Netflix (TV shows and movies for $9.99/month), Hulu (TV shows for $7.99/month), Amazon Prime (music, movies and TV shows for $99/year), Spotify (music for $9.99/month) and Apple Music (music for $9.99/month) are all good choices. As a bonus, you also might perform an invaluable service for an older relative or friend by showing them how to get started with the service and how to use it.

9. A Kindle, iPad or other electronic reading device. These have a multitude of advantages for your older friends and relatives. For some elderly readers, these lightweight devices can be easier to handle than conventional books. If your giftees have diminished eyesight, they can easily adjust the font size. They can also buy books from the comfort of their own home. Double the enjoyment by visiting them to set up their device and show them how to use it (or ask one of your kids to do that for their grandparents).

10. A session with a professional retirement planner. This can be particularly valuable for someone who is intimidated and doesn’t know how to get started planning for retirement, or doesn’t know how to shop for financial planners. If your recipient is shy or lacking in confidence, offer to go with them. Make sure the planner is qualified and has your recipient’s best interests at heart.

11. A trip to a sporting event, movie, concert or play. Staying active and social is even more critical as people age. Help your favorite relative by taking them out on the town. This is a particularly thoughtful gift for older people who don’t go out very much and would enjoy being with you.  

12. Dance lessons. These offer an opportunity for great exercise and much fun. Your giftee will also meet new people, and for married couples, it’s a great way to rekindle the romance. Dancing also rates high as an activity to keep you mentally sharp.

13. Yoga or tai chi lessons, a gym membership, walking shoes -- anything that might help your recipient start moving. Help your relative or friend jump-start an exercise habit with the gift of lessons, memberships or exercise gear. Regular exercise is critical to keeping healthy in your later years. 

14. Local, fresh produce. On the subject of healthy habits, help those you love eat more vegetables and fruits to improve their nutrition. You can arrange for regular delivery of locally grown seasonal fruits and vegetables through a community-supported agriculture program -- the extra benefit is that you’ll help local farmers in the process. Or you could double the gift enjoyment by taking them to a local farmer’s market every few weeks to buy the produce, combining the gift with a social outing.

15. Pay for a repair around the house or a visit from a handyman. If you notice a few things that need to be fixed or enhanced in your older relative’s house, arrange for a handyman visit. This can work particularly well for widows or other women who live alone, or anybody who doesn’t have the ability to do the work. If you have these skills, move this item to the “priceless” category below -- your older friend or relative will love being able to see you as you get things fixed up.   

Priceless 

16. Take them to a school play or performance featuring their grandchildren or other young relatives. If they don’t live close by, film the performance and send them a DVD or link to the performance online.

17. Coupons for shopping trips, visits or even trips to the doctor. These work particularly well when they’re from grandchildren for elderly grandparents who may not get out very much. Another great idea is to offer an afternoon reviewing their old photo collection. This can be a win-win, since you’ll learn more about your ancestors. The gift of time is truly priceless.

18. Visit their house to prepare a favorite meal or recipe. This is also a win-win because they’ll eat a healthy meal and enjoy a nice visit with you. Cooking enough to ensure there are leftovers would be a bonus.

19. Fulfill a long-held dream. Have you ever heard your friend or relative say wistfully, “I’ve always wanted to ...” Why not help make their dream come true? 

20. Donate in the name of your recipient to his or her favorite charity. This is a very thoughtful gift for those people you know who really don’t need or want anything. It means even more if you can share some literature about the charity’s work. 

Here’s another bonus: Most of these ideas don’t involve braving the crowds at the local mall!

If you have more great ideas for the older person on your list, please help our readers by sending in your favorite holiday gift ideas in the comment section below.  

Make someone happy this holiday season!

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    Steve Vernon helped large employers design and manage their retirement programs for more than 35 years as a consulting actuary. Now he's a research scholar for the Stanford Center on Longevity, where he helps collect, direct and disseminate research that will improve the financial security of seniors. He's also president of Rest-of-Life Communications, delivers retirement planning workshops and authored Money for Life: Turn Your IRA and 401(k) Into a Lifetime Retirement Paycheck and Recession-Proof Your Retirement Years.