Christmas gifts for seniors 2020
Finding a gift that will be appreciated by our older family and friends can be tricky. In our annual round up of present ideas we try hard to find ideas that are original, fun or luxurious.
What’s behind this year’s list?
This year is going to be particularly interesting if we’re not going to be able to see our family in person. Courier firms are warning us we should buy and send early, because there’s going to be extraordinary demand for their services.
There’s also the question of which businesses to support. The big players are enjoying high online sales, but many smaller businesses are suffering, and we’re being encouraged to buy local if we can.
In this year’s ideas list for Christmas gifts we’ve looked at presents that take account of changing times. Our older and more vulnerable citizens may be the last to feel ready to go out and about, so we’re focusing mostly on gifts to enjoy at home.
We’ve made it clear where we’ve been provided with review samples for this article. If it’s not stated, then these are just ideas that you might explore.
So bearing all that in mind, here are this year’s ideas. And if you can’t see anything that grabs you here, take a look at some of our previous gift guides. The individual items may not still be available, but the ideas are still good to go.
Light up dark evenings
Winter can cast gloom on life at the best of times. This year is set to be particularly difficult, so lighting up dark evenings with extra lamps or candles could be cheering.
We received a personalised candle from Kindred Fires. The website has a huge choice of candles, both real and with battery-operated lights if safety is a particular concern. There’s a good range of scents as well. I chose the rather lovely black raspberry and vanilla scent, with the family candle wreath personalised to our family name and the year, which sells at £24 (with a 10% discount on your first order).
Bright works for the walls
Artwork prints are a great idea if you’ve a good sense of what the recipient will enjoy. We took a look at three prints from the art shop www.inkanddrop.com which offers an interesting selection in many styles all available online at prices ranging from £13 – £45. It’s not your safe impressionism or trains in fog, but I loved the vibrant colours and excellent quality prints. You can choose to add frames or just take the high-quality prints as they are and frame them yourself.
More than just a diary
I’m a huge fan of the doorstep milk delivery service in general. Not only is it a great way to save on plastic, but it was a godsend during lockdown, when we could have not just milk but a range of household goods and even garden compost delivered to the door.
I’ve recommended the Dairy Diary before, and I still value it for its presentation, content and the tradition it represents. We’ve taken a look at two of the books available from the milk delivery service – and online if you’re not signed up to daily deliveries. In my area that means MilkandMore.
The Dairy Diary is a diary in the old-fashioned sense, with household tips, recipes, places for notes –and much more, all packaged in an A5 format with some beautiful photography throughout. RRP £8.85.
There’s another book worth a look this year, which is a recipe book called A Zest for Life. Again, the recipes are colourful and easy to follow ideas for daily meals planned to be nutritious and tasty. Some of the recipes are suitable for vegetarians and vegans. RRP £9.99.
Having been diagnosed as a diabetic at the start of lockdown I’ve avoided chocolate since March. But the samples Willie’s Cacao sent us were just too tempting. Fortunately this chocolate is of such a high quality that a little goes a long way. And it turned out to be a great excuse to get together with family for an in-the-garden-with-no-more-than-six-people tasting session.
The company says it makes everything bean to bar from the world’s great single estate cacaos and 100% natural ingredients. As well as hampers and other gifts, Willy’s Cacao has just launched a subscription box – which we sampled – that fits through the recipient’s letterbox. Each box includes two chocolates from Willie’s series of ‘Magnificent Creations’, chocolates he has made from particularly unusual ingredients or rare beans that won’t be in any shop. We tried and enjoyed the Vegan Subscription Box which can be bought as a one-off or as a subscription.
Personalised daily vitamins
This is an interesting idea, if you think you know someone who could benefit from extra vitamins and nutrients. Nourished is home to the UK’s first 3D-printed gummy vitamins which are personalised to each individual’s needs and requirements. As a taster, the company is offering advent calendars containing Life Stack blends, which are available to pre-order until the November 15th for £49.99 (total value £89.99). The stacks themselves are jelly-like in texture, sugar-free and suitable for vegans (but we’d still want to have our chocolate calendars for taste!).
You can now buy 3-month, 6-month and 12-month subscriptions to all sorts of services, from crafting supplies to tea tastings.
A more traditional idea is monthly or even weekly deliveries of flowers. There are plenty of organisations offering this service, but knowing which offers the freshest flowers to last the longest can be a bit hit and miss. We asked a blogging friend who trials flower deliveries, and she told us her current favourite is Freddies Flowers.
Learning a new skill
For a mind-exercising gift, you could consider one-to-one or group lessons in a new skill, either face-to-face if that’s safe, or online using technologies such as Zoom.
According to the people at Yamaha, one of the biggest myths about ageing is that the older we get, the harder it is to learn new things. They argue that this simply isn’t true, and playing a musical instrument in retirement, even a little, helps people stay mentally and physically agile.
Yamaha is promoting the CSP-170 Smart Piano, which is a digital piano that provides and LED light bar and learning tools to make learning easier at home. It connects to a tablet to harness a wide range of sounds and backing, the ability to scan songs into a music library, and instructions on how to play songs.
If self-learning doesn’t appeal, there are plenty of music teachers who can provide help. Yamaha Music London recommends the website https://www.ism.org/ to find a music teacher either online or 1-2-1 at home. Click on Find a Teacher on the home page and it takes you to a page where you can ask for the type of teacher you are looking for and your postcode.
Or how about something a little different and rather lovely? A company called Hands On Harps has contacted us to tell us about the online (and face-to-face) tuition they offer for learning to play the harp. No musical experience is needed, and the company even hires out harps for those who just want to dip their toes in the water before deciding whether to buy. Harp hire plus the online course is just £45 per month, plus £100 deposit (refundable when the harp is returned, or deductible if you go on to buy it), and the company says it can ship a harp within the UK for £80.
We’ve just received a personalised photoblanket from Printerpix.co.uk, who offer a 60% discount to first-time buyers on their wide range of custom photo gifts. This large blanket is a beautifully soft fleecy throw and would be ideal for snuggling up on a winter’s evening. I chose a photo from my son’s wedding to be printed onto the blanket and will be passing it on to him as a late wedding/new house gift, but family photos might make a lovely present for a grandparent. The reproduction was good and the printers added a banner with a message to finish it off. Do check delivery times if you want to order, as customising gifts can take a while, but this would make a good present at any time of the year.
Focus on dementia
We’ve highlighted a company called Active Minds before in our gift lists. Now rebranded as Relish, the company continues to design and create well-researched games and activities that are aimed at providing fun and strengthening connections for those living with dementia. Current offerings include:
- Reminiscence cards that unlock personal stories
- Musical Bingo, matching up well-known music with instruments
- Easy-to-handle jigsaw puzzles
- Adapted versions of the card games snap, pairs and full house
Replacing cherished china
This might be a long shot, but if your parent has treasured tea or dinner services that have lost a few pieces, you could try some of the specialised suppliers who seek out discontinued china. There are a few companies that offer replacement new and second user pieces, with prices reflecting the quality of the pieces on offer. I’ve managed to source extra cups and plates for our wedding present china from 35 years ago through Chinasearch (although I actually found replacements for my parents’ tea set at a car boot sale!).
Making the most of good television
We’ve all been doing plenty of staying in, and might continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Now we’re into autumn there’s some high-quality viewing to be found on terrestrial and other channels, but much of it starts or ends late, so being able to record programmes is a useful idea.
Many recording systems are far more clever than many of us need, but we’re told that the Manhattan T3-R subscription-free Freeview recorder is one that’s straightforward to use and could be handy for those who don’t want bells and whistles. We haven’t seen this product, but it’s described as having an easily readable font, a larger than standard typeface, and bigger buttons – and every button and menu do what you’d expect them to. RRP £169.
One step further is virtual reality
Watching high-quality nature programmes on television can be a mood booster, according to research from the University of Exeter. The study looked at the effects of watching nature on TV and using virtual reality headsets. All appeared to help with reducing sadness and boredom, and the VR experience actually seemed to increase happiness. Our daughter in law has just got the new Oculus system today and I’ll come back to let you know what she thinks. Meanwhile, here’s a good starting point for virtual reality nature experiences.
Keeping in touch
Learning to use technology to keep in touch with family and friends has become hugely important this year. Many people have learned to use Zoom and other webchat apps to hear and see others, even if they can’t be in the same room. Using PCs, laptops, tablets, iPads and iPhones all work to some extent, though we’ve found trying to help someone who’s not terribly tech-aware and is using different technology can be complicated.
One suggestion we’ve received for large groups, which we haven’t tried for ourselves, is the Google’s Nest Hub Max, which allows video calling for up to 32 people. It costs £219.00 from the Google Store. Features also include smart home control, 10” digital HD screen and stereo speakers, and it can be used as a digital photo frame. There’s also connection to Netflix if that appeals to the recipient.
Normally we would suggest memberships of organisations such as the National Trust, the Royal Horticultural Society, English Heritage, wildlife sites, and many more. Sadly, for those already with membership, this hasn’t been the best value year, and we don’t know what the future holds. At present it’s possible to visit many sites safely, with fewer visitors and a booking system in place. But it doesn’t look likely that members will get any sort of refund for the weeks the sites were closed, which is understandable given the loss of income these organisations have suffered. Still a really positive idea for gifts, but it’s hard to know how much they can be enjoyed in the coming year.
To voucher or not to voucher?
Theatres and events venues are struggling. Many have become quite inventive in their offerings. Buying vouchers to use in the future is being strongly promoted, but for people at high risk of being seriously unwell if they contract the coronavirus, reviving visits to the theatre and cinema may be a long time in the future. So are there other ways of being supportive? MoneySavingExpert sadly argues against vouchers, because of the risk that venues may go out of business before the voucher can be realised. Perhaps the answer is a double gift – make a donation to the venue now, and promise to take the gift recipient to see a show when they feel safer.
Afternoon tea and foodie ideas
Going out for tea is a lovely thing to do, and many venues offer vouchers to give at Christmas. Again though, this year we don’t know whether cafes, hotels and restaurants will be able to offer a full range of services. There are alternatives though. Many small local businesses will deliver a freshly prepared afternoon tea to your parent’s home to enjoy with however many visitors are currently allowed. Or you can order a hamper to be delivered, such as the Traditional Treats Hamper, £45, available from Hampers.com, which is more of a store cupboard gift to be enjoyed over time.
A few more thoughts
- Freshen up bedding. New sheets and pillowcases can make a huge difference to sleep quality, and there’s a wide range of options to brighten up a bedroom. Egyptian cotton is cool while feeling luxurious and it’s said to be durable too. Find some options at mediterraneanlinens.co.uk.
- Exercising at home has become popular for all age groups during, and the Activ5 strength-training device is something that can be used seated or standing. There are 100+ exercises available in the app, starting at gentle, and including low impact workouts to protect joints, as well as options to avoid aggravating vulnerable areas. £124.95 from Amazon and Harrods.
While we here can’t road test everything, here are some links to useful other reviews of potential products.
- The best video games for older people
- Christmas food and foodie gifts from Good Housekeeping
- The BBC Good Food guide to gourmet foodie gifts
- Our Mothers Day and Christmas gift lists from the last year
Photo by Naveen Kumar on Unsplash