10 Gift Ideas for Grandma or Elder Neighbors


Senior gift ideas by Francy Dickinson


Hard to believe, my nephews, Dan n Jeff have grown families of their own and have helped me so much this last year as I moved out of our family home

Dear Francy; OK so what I wanted to help you with is ideas for gifts for Elders at Xmas…So here it goes…F.


Neighbors need your attention. I am sure you have a few “live alone” neighbors your way. Please do not forget them, even if they are younger…they need to know that others care about them and Holiday time is so hard for those alone.

A small bag filled with a card and sweets is the easy thing…hang on the door knob and leave. You do not have to spend time with them if you do not want to. You can just gift your kindness. Tuck in a little candy, or a few cookies in a Ziplock, a bar of pretty soap, a $5 gift card to Starbucks or McDonald’s. Whatever you do for your gifting of thanks…do it for those that are on their own.

We just lost a gentleman in the neighborhood due to suicide. He had kept care of his wife with Alzheimer’s for years and when she died, he was exhausted and just retreated into his empty life. I did not know him…so I was not aware of any of this and it still hurts my heart. Sometimes, a small chat with a neighbor gives them comfort. So, a gift bag surprise could change a person’s personal outlook on the world…to one of “someone cares about me” or “I belong here”  or even more important “I feel safe here”. Gift your kindness. Even a gift card for some lawn cutting in the summer would be a fun one. Be creative and think about those around you. Gifting to others in formal charities is wonderful, this time of year…but those that are close and alone…they are the perfect place to begin.


Mother enjoyed giving & receiving gifts up to her passing at 100 years of age!

Mother enjoyed giving & receiving gifts up to her passing at 100 years of age!

Always saying; “I don’t need anything.” Is really the truth when you start to age. But getting a gift at holiday time, no matter how small, is a fun thing that everyone enjoys. Here are some senior ideas.

  1. Small bag with card and treats. Sweet tooth’s never die. Seniors love sweets. So a few candy treats, or homemade cookies are perfect. But, your own grocery store has wonderful bakeries that have individual cakes, pies and cheese cakes that come in plastic, easy to gift, containers. They are all decorated and look pretty and give the senior a feeling of being special.
  2. Fruits: Fruits that are special like grapes, berries, cut pineapple, small winter sweet oranges, apples dipped in caramel. These are things that seniors like to “piece on”. Easy for you and a lasting treat that many seniors do not spend money on for their own enjoyment. Obviously, cheeses, deli meats and crackers or specialty holiday breads are also a fun surprise. OH and an old fashion one ~ is dates…nice California dates that are sweet and other dried fruits.
  3. Things for personal: nice soaps that you find in the bath department, something that is handmade is so special for a senior, instead of the usual Dial soap. You could also add new shower mat and a nice big bath towel that’s a great one. Seniors tend to keep their towels and bed linen for years and new ones add a freshness to their lives.
  4. I love gifting hand cream that is special. Goat milk hand cream or healing hand creams. It just is something everyone enjoys using but seldom buy. On that; a new tube of toothpaste and a battery toothbrush. Lots of elders have never tried a battery toothbrush and you can get it all ready and talk about it a bit to take away any worry over its use. That will doll up their day!
  5. A large read-out Atomic clock. George loved his and he had an auto outside temperature read-out on it too. You get the clock and place it where it’s easy to see. You put in the battery and that is that. If you add the outside temp you get a small battery run remote to hang outside your back door. The senior does not have to change or set the clock, it is all done automatically for them each night via the Oregon lab and seniors love it. (No WiFi needed)
  6. Handy tools for the kitchen or the handyman. Now what I mean is this; many older people stop buying kitchen utensils or small tools for their quick repairs. All of these things, have been updated the last few years. A plug-in lite that goes on if the power goes off, it has LED lights and is really bright. A light weight screwdriver that is battery-electric with a few heads or a can opener that is easy for the older hand to use. A plug-in hot water pot, so there is never a forgotten pot left on the stove. These are the thoughtful things that will change the ability for a senior to stay alone in their home or apartment. Maybe a return-again visit and go through and clean out their junk drawer with dividers so they can open it up and find anything they need for quick use. (How many rubber bands can a guy have in a junk drawer? J
  7. New front and back welcome mats. This is a simple fix, but mats that take away the dirt, and keep the wet from coming into the house on the carpet…it’s a big deal. Bet your senior has not changed theirs’ in years.
  8. Plastic glides for under chairs or heavy furniture. If the senior has a favorite chair, can they even move it? Probably not; it’s now too heavy for them. These simple chair glides will help them move around the big table or chairs they use often. (Ace Hardware has them)
  9. A holder for their cell phone. Seniors tend to lose their cell phones even in small spaces. I little holder for the cell phone is perfect. Taking time to add new phone numbers or make sure their smart phones are organized and not confusing is also so helpful. Don’t forget Jitterbug makes phones for seniors that are easy to see as well as use.
  10. Led and long lasting light bulbs. This is a really, great thing. Seniors often have trouble with changing lights. How about you bring over a few of the newer long life lights and do a few replacements of lights that are needed and used the most. Front porch, kitchen lights, light by their TV chair, bathroom lights…this is a very thoughtful gift and will be appreciated for years to come. Even if it is a simple one, its important. Keeping seniors off step ladders is a must, so this is a life-savor too!

Seniors do not need fancy things, expensive things or another sweater. They need things that they use every day and that need updating. I once brought over a shower curtain liner and put it up for my mom with a new bath tub mat. She could have never done the shower curtain it was too much for her to stretch. She called me and thanked me for weeks after. She said that she did not realize how dingy her old ones had gotten and how she enjoyed the new ones so much. Simple shower curtain liner…hello, who knew that would make me her favorite daughter? (OK, it didn’t my sister Merrilee was her favorite, but it gave me points!

Gift Holiday cheer and love to your loved ones and neighbors…and thank you for care giving your time to others. It’s a very kind gift to give your love, time for a chat and tea together with a senior. Just picking up a Starbucks coffee and bringing to the senior and spending a half hour in chat is a gift that lasts.

Blessings on your holidays…f.

Grieving at Christmas


Handling grief at holiday time by francy Dickinson

Dear Francy: I am going through my second holiday without my husband and its tough. I have a few friends that are going through similar feelings and I thought I would share some feelings with you. f.

Memory Snap Shot

Memory Snap Shot

There is no time frame to grief. I have known and listened to stories of spouses remarrying within a few months of a loss and then those that never find another mate. My mother was without her husband for forty-eight years. There is simply no rule to the time of healing and adjusting to loss; a tough divorce, moving away, loss of a job or home and of course; death of a dear and close loved one or partner. The rules go out the window. So, each of us have to try to make it through the woods on our own. Creating our own healing time-frame and finding small and large ways to restructure our life patterns to form a new life for our own self. That is why I share with others that their loss and my loss are totally different. Therefore, no comparison is available. But the pain, the loneliness and the unsettling in each of our lives is certainly a bridge of understanding and its shared by all of us walking through those woods.

George's Memory Tree

George’s Memory Tree

This is my second Christmas without my Georgie. Last year, I was in our family home and did the decorating as usual. I used George as my theme…and printed up pictures of him at different times in his life and decorated the tree with a sense of love and joy. I had friends over for holiday dinner and used my china and made my special recipes. I love to bake; so I did my usual baking of Biscotti and gifting it to friends and family. I missed my guy with all of my heart but I went through the motion of festivities because it gave me a sense of security to stick to the plan.

This year; I am not in my home that I shared for so many years with Georgie. I am living with friends for a while and they are too busy to decorate for Christmas. They are not into baking or into any of the many traditions that George and I had taken on to express our love of the holiday season. So, its quiet here. I have time to think back on lots of holidays and reflect on what I want to do in the forward motion of my life. I have time to rest and not do the crazy run around for gifts, food and parties. Its something different for me, not bad, just different. But my heart aches for my guy and our old ways.

I have a dear friend that lost her husband around the time I lost Georgie. She too has moved out of her long time home. She is settling into an apartment lifestyle and is in the process of adjustment, as I am. We share our memories of years of fun and love with our mates and I think it helps both of us…to talk about things…work through things in our minds by sharing.

I would say that having a friend that shares a similar loss in their life to talk to, is very helpful. If that is not something you have in your life; try to find a support group that would fit your own needs. When you can talk about yourself and then help others through their hard time, it really does makes your own pain feel controllable. When you keep all your thoughts and feelings inside and only have an on-going personal discussion with yourself…the pain can and will overwhelm you. Why try to pretend you are not sad or lonely for the sake of friends or family…it hurts only you. I am not saying that you escape the pain, but support and comfort from others allows you to express the sadness and more or less flush it out. Instead of getting stuck in thoughts that circle around and around again.

Safety, is what I think I miss. Somehow I felt safe with my Georgie around. Even when he was extremely ill and could not have really saved me from anything or anyone…just his presence allowed me to feel, safe. Therefore, if you were asking me what is the hardest thing about his loss? It would be my feeling of safety is missing. I can not put the feeling into words. But on a daily basis I am faced with actions, decisions, and schedules that are presented to me and there is no one behind me to support my own decisions. I suppose they would be the same decisions with or without George there…but his energy and love always gave me a feeling of confidence, that I was free to make a good choice. Now, I fuss over things and worry over my choices.

When I talk to my friends that are going through the same situations of loss over their spouse. I find it comforting to know they too have similar feelings. So, in a strange way, it helps me. Not to change my choices or my life decisions…but to know that its a stage that we are all going through, not just me. Those stages of grief that are printed and talked about…just so you know. They are just a suggestion of a progression through pain of loss. You do not have to go through those stages in order, or timely. You may skip feelings and then hover on other feelings. Its OK, we are not all cupie dolls walking through the same experience. So, do not be worried over the death experts…just allow yourself to feel and be as you go. No rules, no guilt. Maybe you feel nothing, maybe your relationship is tucked in perfectly. Maybe your personal beliefs have you and your loved one on a very accepted path and you are able to let your sadness go. Each of us, have our our walk through the woods. There is no rule…so do not stress. If you have an after-life belief go with it. But if you don’t…there is plenty of time to build your own.

I used to wake in the morning with George beside me in our big bed. Just as the sun was coming in the window, the room was so quiet and George still asleep. The two dogs and two cats all curled up between us and sleeping. I would look over and see them all and will myself to take a mental snap-shot of the scene. I knew it would change…so I wanted to hold on to it as long as I could.

Now, when I wake I often close my eyes again and recreate that snap-shot. Listening to the breathing of George and our little ones and feeling them all close. George is gone, so is one of our dogs and one of our cats. The scene is no longer there…but in my mind’s eye I still hold that early morning feeling of love. I still remember how I wanted that scene never to end and I take comfort in reviewing it in my mind.

I have no answers to my own future. I wish comfort and love for me as the time moves on. But I try to live each day. I don’t stay in bed…I get up and move. I try to eat well, I try to sleep well. I give my little dog and cat my love and keep them on a daily routine. I write each day, I call family, friends and clients each day. I shop for good food and remembrance gifts and cards. I have a journal that I share my fears and joys in and it helps keep me on track. Even if I am down, I try to reach out and chat with friends and family. I guess I am trying to just keep in motion. So the positive life changes for my future can happen from any direction.

My walk in the woods has just begun. Maybe yours has not even started yet…but know that when you get to the woods, they do not have to be dark and scary. The woods are filled with tall quiet trees that reach out and support you. The woods has ferns and plants that give it a carpet and sounds of birds and small animals that send you energy along the way. It is not a bad or end of the world walk, its just a stroll. Each of us has to take it. If you reach out and talk to a friend that understands or join a group that supports you…the walk will be lighter. I wish that for both of us.

My Missy with our little Kirbee, that left us this year.

My Missy with our little Kirbee, that left us this year.

What ever you choose to do on your holiday, make time to do for others. That is how we heal; by turning around and giving a hand-up to another.

Thank you for your gift of care giving your loved one. Blessings, on your holiday. francy