Christmas gifts for older family and friends 2019
Finding the right present for an older parent or grandparent gets increasingly hard. So we’ve been looking for gifts that add fun and luxury to life at any age. And this year we’ve been following the trend and looking for sustainability too.
Many of these gifts have been sent to us to try out, and we’ll tell you where that’s the case.
Hope you find something here that’s great for your loved ones, whether they’re 75 or 100. Or indeed for yourselves.
Making DAB easy
There is so much to love about the Silver Surfer DAB radio. It’s designed to be very easy to use once it’s set up. There are large, clear displays and labelling for the visually impaired. Most of the more complex setting buttons are hidden away under a cover, so the user just has an on/off button, 3 pre-set buttons and a couple of tuning/volume knobs to worry about. The quality of sound is some of the best I’ve come across in DAB, which is helpful for hearing aid users. And it’s got plenty of added extras, such as an easy way to plug in Talking Books; the capacity for carers or others to record messages; and low temperature alerts. This last one was a bit of surprise when we first switched the radio and left it in a cool office overnight, as we got a disembodied voice telling us that the temperature had dropped below 17 degrees. That was easily adjusted though, and it’s great that there are audible confirmations of actions such as pressing buttons. I usually find DAB a pain, although I know we all have to learn to live with it, because it’s hard to tune into any stations from my office. However, I found that if I found the stations I wanted somewhere else, I could use the three pre-set buttons to store them, and find them very easily anywhere. That said, it was a bit too easy to accidentally reset the presets by pressing on them for a little too long. And I’m a little worried that you can just keep turning the tuning button in either direction without coming to a stop – will it just come off one day? On top of that, the radio is surprisingly lightweight, so it’s easy to carry it around the house and plug it in wherever you want to use it. Good design – hard to fault. Available from the Silver Server shop at £99.99.
A reason for time together
How about a little at-home pampering for anyone who struggles to get out? We tested the Leighton Denny rejuvenate hand mask (£6.50). It’s a half-hour dry skin treatment that involves applying a treatment to the provided gloves, which you then keep on for 20-30 minutes. It’s best done with help, as you have to tie the gloves closed, but you could then finish the treatment with some nail care and a bit of polish. Leighton Denny also offer nail colours, though we didn’t try those.
Another pamper product is the CBD Rescue Cream from the GoodBody Wellness range, which I’ve been testing. It’s one of several hemp-based products offered by the company, such as oils and balms, edibles and even CBD-infused coffee. The aim of the cream is to restore, rescue and soften skin. The company assures me that ingredients are traceable from seed to store, and free from harmful chemicals, artificial colours, sweeteners or preservatives. The Rescue Balm product as a concept does fit well into the luxurious category – looks good, smells good, feels good – though it did take a while to work out how to extract the cream from the pump. At £39.99 it’s fairly pricey, but likely to last a long time.
For those who can’t join you at Christmas
If your parent won’t be joining you for Christmas – or even if they are – how about a mini Christmas tree that comes complete with lights and decoration? Blossoming Gifts offer a living potted tree that could live on past Christmas. The trees are sourced from Scotland and the New Forest, and can be planted outside or kept in their pots to live on balconies or patios. Well cared for, they could be used again the next year. We haven’t seen these ourselves, but we like the idea.
Lap blankets with a difference
It’s often the babies in our lives that get the best-looking and most luxurious gifts. So why not choose a beautiful pram blanket to work as a lap blanket instead? We tried out the Bizzi Growing blanket in cream (£28) from Kiddies Kingdom. It has a gentle feel to it, so if you’re looking for something to soothe and occupy, then this blanket might be just the thing. Although it’s a light colour, it is machine washable at 30 degrees and fluffed up nicely after we’d tried washing it. The blanket’s probably not quite large or heavyweight enough to work as a wheelchair blanket, but it’s still a nice idea for home or in a car. Ours did arrive with a slight mark on the back, so worth checking as soon as you buy so there’s time to replace.
The gift that lasts … for at least 12 days
The Real Ale case from the Best of British Beer is a longish-lasting gift for the beer drinker who enjoys a glass or maybe two a day. There are 12 bottles in the case, all created by independent breweries, and given entertaining names such as ‘The Black Screen of Death’. Not every box will contain the same mix, and we were surprised by how many stouts there were in our case. OH has lined up our samples on the window sill and is delighting in trying one a night and posting his tasting notes on FaceBook. They won’t last until Christmas. Priced at £34.95 for 12 x 500ml bottles. Also available is a Christmas 12 pack, £35.95 for 12 x 500ml. Delivery is £5.95 but free if you order two or more items.
A great way to remember
I thought that these didn’t exist anymore, so I was pleased to be sent a Dairy Diary. It’s a real diary, like they used to make, with masses of pages at the front to keep a note of important information, from insurance policy numbers, every calendar date you can think of, and phone numbers of the butcher, baker and candlestick maker (or perhaps not that last one). There are articles about history, gardening, and a wealth of information to help busy cooks. And there are recipes absolutely everywhere. My diary fell open to Christmas scones, made with mincemeat, which I had to try straightaway. (I think I need to practise.) The whole diary is a wire-bound A5 package, and costs £8.75.
Personalised presents can be a bit hit and miss. Some are beautiful quality and some are a bit of a disappointment. Here are a couple that we like.
Family tree on a cushion
A top rating for this one. It’s a family tree cushion, from the Personalised Gift shop, which you can personalise with names of family members. With an inclusive insert, it’s excellent quality, although at 46 sq cm, a little smaller than many cushions. It seems to me this would make a lovely gift for someone who’s beginning to have memory problems and is frustrated by forgetting the names of family. Keep this cushion at hand in daily use and it will be a great aide memoire.
The same company personalises photo frames. We took a look at an A3 frame with spaces for five photos, and a wooden heart in the middle, with a few words about wonderful grandchildren. For those with a growing brood of grandchildren, this is a tastefully put together idea.
A mobile for less mobile fingers
Introducing newer technology to older users is a topic we’ve tackled a few times. The latest phone we’ve seen is the 4G-enabled Nokia 2720 Flip. It has a ‘retro’ flip design, but with a large keyboard and large fonts on screen. An ‘in case of emergency’ button sends messages and calls five people in the owner’s phone book should they need help promptly. We were sent a sample to try for a couple of weeks, so I swapped a SIM card into it and tried it out. What did I like? The large keys are great, although it would have been nice to have slightly larger fonts and definitely some colour, at least for the call begin and end keys. The user instructions are pretty clear, so it’s fairly easy to set up the contacts and assistance calls. The phone is lightweight and the flip style protects the screen and keyboard well. On the other hand, the retro-style keyboard means when you want to text it’s a bit laborious. On the whole, though, for someone who understands mobile phones but doesn’t need the complexities of the high-end smartphone, this is a good compromise. Priced at £89.99. (But I do wish phone manufacturers would produce a really simplified instruction sheet for basis tasks such as making a phone call, that could be completed and carried around at all times. People who don’t use phones all the time tend to forget how.)
Something perhaps to mention here is that some of the leading mobile networks are likely to be pushing Pay as You Go users to move to contracts in the future and are already putting up prices. For older users who only make calls occasionally, this is unlikely to be the best economics, so you may like to think about bundling in a contract for them too as part of your gift.
A fun thought, but we’ve not seen these particular versions in real life, so can’t vouch for the quality, are these animal footstools. I can’t decide between the cows or the alpaca, but there are plenty of other choices.
While the Guylian chocolate shells take over the shops at Christmas, we don’t often see choices for vegans. The Belgian Intense Dark 84% no sugars added bar could be a good choice for those who don’t eat dairy. We’ve not tried it ourselves yet though.
Does chilli jam sound a bit exotic for the ageing palate? According to Nicola Simons, founder of the Single Variety Co, the spicier flavours of her jams are particularly popular with older people, who have often lost much of their sensitivity to subtle tastes. The Company has launched a gift box featuring a mild Fireflame Chilli Jam, hot Jalapeno Jam and super-hot Lem Drop Chilli Jam. The gift box is available on their website for £20. Not reviewed here.
Focusing on the sustainable, here are a few stocking fillas.
Glass straws hit the right note on the sustainability front. VASO’s range of toughened glass straws are free from plastics, toxins, mineral oils and BPA. The manufacturer says the straws offer a sturdy structure and strong flow, and can go in the dishwasher. Further details are available on their web site. We haven’t tried these out but sound a good idea.
We’re including this one for its sustainability credentials, even if it’s not quite a luxury Christmas gift. Potentially good for the long winter evenings though. Anyone who has a wood-burning stove or open fire might benefit from the Firemizer. Described as a unique fuel-saving device, it’s a mesh grid which ensures heat is spread evenly and all of the solid fuel is burnt, helping to reduce waste, save money and extend the burn time. The makers claim that one Firemizer grid will last up to 500 burning hours, reducing particulate emissions by 72%, creosote emissions by 57% and saving 38% on fuel costs. Its sister product Firebuilder is a firelighter and kindling all in one. It’s made from 100% recycled cardboard, and burns to nothing. It is also 100% chemical free. We have the products sitting in our office waiting for a suitable tester.
Fairtrade has become an established part of our shopping choices, from chocolates and Christmas coffee to beauty products. The Chocolate & Love Pomegranate Gift Box contains very dark chocolate that would suit vegans, retails at £16.99 and is available from Chocolate & Love online and elsewhere. If you prefer a bottle of something, the Co-op is the world’s largest Fairtrade wine retailer, with choices of red, white and rose from Fairtrade vineyards in South Africa, Chile and Argentina.
Reviewed by Kathy Lawrence, editor at When They Get Older, with a little help from her friends.