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Thoughtful gifts for your older family and friends

Christmas gifts for mums and dads

Here’s the 2021 edition of  our popular gift suggestion list for seniors. We’ve got a new gift suggestion list for 2022, so do take a look there too.

As ever, I’ll make it clear where I’ve had a chance to test the product or service myself, and where I just like the idea. I’ll give you as much useful information as I can, and direct you to more.

So here goes ….

Going out


It has been a while since many older people have felt safe heading out for a treat, and we’re not out of the woods yet. The good news about many experiences vouchers is that they’re now valid for up to 2 years, so recipients should feel able to take advantage of them. You may also be able to change your experience without charge.

We tried Red Letter Days. Having looking at the ‘Afternoon Tea’ and ‘Relax and Unwind’ boxes, I decided to go with the ‘Merry Christmas’ gift box . The box has a selection of dining, adventures, fun days out, and pamper treats. Prices vary for the different packages, but if you sign up for discount sites such as VoucherCodes, or even the Red Letter Days emails, you should easily find discounts. You can choose a postal or online voucher. I thought a hard-copy version made for a more enjoyable gift. You still have to go online to find an experience. I couldn’t get the geographic search function to work, so it took a while to scroll through all the possibilities.

Time to give

Nordgreen is a Scandinavian designer and seller of a range of good-looking watches that can be tailored in size and strap to suit the customer. I chose to review the Infinity watch in rose gold with a mesh strap, one of the most popular models in the company’s women’s watches range. My watch is lightweight, comfortable to wear and elegant. It simply tells the time, with no added features, but as a piece of jewellery it would work well on those ‘ladies who lunch’ days, when you don’t need to know the date, count your steps, or take a swim. The watch was attractively packaged (albeit with the wrong instructions), and comes with a 2-year guarantee. We found a YouTube video that told us how to easily adjust the strap. At a full price of £159, it seems quite pricey, although it may be that this is effectively funding the company’s Giving Back programme. You can find various offers on the website to bring the cost down a little.

Making plans

For many people of any age, there’s more pleasure to be gained in filling in and following a paper calendar than electronic.

That’s why we still love to give wall calendars to the right people. Danilo sent us a review copy of the BBC Earth Landscapes calendar, with the traditional stunning photography for every month. Enough room to write birthdays and appointments, and easy to read. Calendars can be bought in a number of retail outlets or direct from the publisher.

We’re also delighted that the Dairy Diary has appeared again. This isn’t just a diary. It’s a full-colour reference book, providing articles and information on tasks around the house from making do and mending to gardening. Foremost though are the simple recipes on every weekly double-spread. It’s in A5 format, which I found last year to be spacious enough to use for recording of my project work hours. The diary is available online.

Staying in but being busy

Jamming it

I’m going to recommend Rosie Makes Jam again, because I continue to find it makes a lovely present for someone who has the time and energy to make a little chutney or jam. I’ve given a 3-month subscription several times now, and the recipients say they enjoy the gift. There’s something special about having a box turn up at the door every month, packed with all you need – bar maybe a couple of fresh ingredients – to make a batch of something lovely. So far we’ve seen ginger cordial, raspberry jam, pumpkin chutney and mincemeat. As you can tell, the boxes are put together to reflect the season and what’s available at the time of year. In our experience they also come with a personalised hand-written note from Rosie, which is much appreciated.

Sewing and sticking

Crafting and sewing have become increasingly popular through the pandemic as we’ve spent so much time at home. While family may not know what to get, a voucher to buy fabric from one of the more original online sellers might be an idea. A few that I’ve tried and have provided great quality and charming fabric and service include Flamingo Fabrics, The Vintage Sweetheart, and Elephant in my Handbag.

Staying in and relaxing

A taste of something rather nice

We’ve received a selection of tasty treats in jars from family-owned business Opies, who become a familiar foodie name with their pickles and compotes.

In our tasting selection we’re enjoying preserved fruit in attractive dumpy jars – red berries in pink gin, pineapple in spiced rum, and black cherries in kirsch. We’ve also got jars of pickled walnuts, stem ginger and cocktail gherkins. These all look really good as gifts as well as tasting delightful. And if you need inspiration for serving, the Opie website has some tempting recipes.

Our samples are part of a much wider range from Opies, available in Waitrose and other higher-end supermarkets.

Update: I’ve now tried the red berries in pink gin and found it delicious, especially served over vanilla icecream.

A cleaner smartphone screen

Smart Screen is an antibacterial cleaning cloth designed, say the developers, with the current heightened awareness of cleanliness in mind. It contains a silver ion antibacterial liquid treatment that lasts for up to 15 washes.

The cloth can be used on phones and tablets, spectacles and camera lines. We have tried the cloths out and opinions are divided about how well they  clean spectacles but seem to do very well with electronic devices. We’ve yet to try removing small children’s sticky prints from iPads, but can see them working well here too.

The cloth is connected to its pouch with a popper, making it easier to find than a cloth on its own. It’s available in six colours, and retails at £9.95, with a Gold Edition at £14.95.

When you can’t meet

A gift of delivered flowers for a loved one you’ll not be seeing over the holidays may not be the most original idea, but it’s much appreciated by many, especially at this gloomy time of year. There are plenty of florists to choose from, and it’s worth asking around and looking at reviews if you’re unsure about quality and delivery.

This year we received a review bouquet by courier from e-florist. You can choose courier, letterbox or hand deliveries from the company’s network of local florists. First sight was a little worrying as the corrugated cardboard box was battered and delivered upside down. However, the beautiful bouquet inside was undamaged, and filled a large vase with complementary pink and red flowers along with plentiful fresh-looking greenery. Care tips are included, which note that the flowers will look even better in a day or two when they’ve settled down. The flowers lasted really well – about 10 days for the greenery and slightly less for the roses. There was no information about the source of the individual bouquet, but e-florist says that it supports its growers worldwide as well as local businesses. Prices on eflorist start at under £20.

Simple radio listening

Modern radios can be complicated things but Relish – a company focused on quality living for those with dementia – has simplified the controls down to three buttons. Their aim has been to make it as easy as possible for radio lovers to continue listening to their favourite stations. The idea is that a caregiver opens up the full control panel and sets 3 favourite stations. That leaves the owner only having to worry about turning on and off, changing volume, and choosing the station.

While we haven’t tried the radio ourselves, there are a few pretty positive reviews for this new product on Amazon, with the only negative being that maybe 3 stations aren’t enough.

It’s not cheap at £99.99 inc VAT, but the warranty is for 12 months. Relish adds that as the radio is designed to be high spec, they would be disappointed if it failed at all.

You can buy on Relish’s website or on Amazon.

Relieving neck stress

Just arrived in the office for review is the Go Travel -Ultimate 2.0 foam neck pillow. The promoters say this neck support can help to prevent neck pain and back strain whenever someone is sitting still for a long time – perhaps watching television or reading. The cushion includes a strap across the front to personalise it to the user.

Talking of reading, you could take a look at our contributor’s top ten list of good books to read for seniors.

A pet without worries

I’ve seen some very positive stories around animatronic pets, which offer all the benefits of a pet without the problems. They seem to be especially good for those living with dementia.

A number of care homes and the NHS have bought into the idea, but you can also buy one just for your family member. The cat and dog versions from Ageless Innovation cost just over £100 and are available on Amazon. We haven’t tried them ourselves.

Computing is history

There is a tendency to think of older people as being widely technophobes. Yet increasingly the retired population is made up of people who have grown up with computers. They may not have been around at the time of the code-cracking Enigma machine during WW2, but the story of computing could still stir memories.

You can find memorabilia and more in the National Museum of Computing’s online shop.

Staying in with some going out

Own a bit of a racehorse

It’s unlikely anyone will make their fortune out of this idea, but it could be fun to follow the progress of a racehorse in which you have a vested interest. The idea is to give shares in a real race horse. The owner can then follow its progress around the courses, and share its trials and tribulations.

An example is Old Gold Racing, which provides regular updates, behind-the scenes information including interviews with trainers and jockeys, and post-Covid events and visits. The subscription for Old Gold costs £60 and lasts for 14 months. The shareholders then vote to renew/keep the horse in training. If it stays in training, renewal costs for the next 14 months are reduced to about £40. The shareholders actually own the horse, and if there is prize money this will go to the shareholders. There’s usually there’s 1000 – 3000 shares in a horse. Share gifts are £60 and can be purchased in digital packs or enhanced with a Gift of Gold box (+£18). Visit www.oldgoldracing.com  or call 01242 650 630.

There are plenty of other companies offering similar packages, so a quick search will let you find the package that best suits you.

Many of the suggestions in our previous gift guides for Christmas and other occasions are still available, so do take a look at:

Photo by Monika Stawowy on Unsplash

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