QUESTION: What could I get my aging parents for the holidays?

2020 has been a year to remember for so many reasons. The travel restrictions and fear of transmitting COVID-19 to those we care about has changed our lives this year in many ways.

Our older family, neighbors, and friends rely on those that help them to make their life better. Sometimes this can be harder due to distance or job related issues. I know that many older people are isolated and may not have many visitors, especially this year. Others have been more active and don’t “need” a whole lot. When you have been around 60, 70 or 80 years, you probably don’t have a wish list or items that you need. This time of life may be about ‘getting rid of stuff’.

One of the first things I always recommend is to give a gift of time. Give this gift in the form of phone calls, trips to the grocery store, doctor appointments, or beauty salon. Time set aside to visit or talk. Make a date once a month or once a week to do whatever they choose. This time of year it could be helping to decorate their home, maybe next month take down the decorations, and then next month do grocery shopping. It could also be to bring in coffee, or lunch. We can do things together, but do it differently. You could watch TV together but being on the phone in your own homes.

We often want to give something tangible that lasts, but the time we give is often much more valuable. There are things they may need, maybe a gift card for flowers in the spring, grocery store or again the beauty salon. That gift card can then be followed up with “I will take you to…..”. This could also be bringing flowers, or having flowers delivered regularly. A reminder that you care all year long. Take out from their favorite restaurant. A subscription to the Post Journal, or another newspaper or magazine they enjoy.

If money is tight for you, the gift of time is less expensive. There are so many things that could be helpful; shoveling, gardening, rototilling, planting, sorting stuff, driving, talking, cleaning windows, the list is endless. All of these things are valuable, but don’t cost you as much and mean a lot to the person who receives them. Other ideas: Cook dinner for your family and bring some of it to them.

Maybe bringing a group to their house to carol or do yard work. Your whole family could participate in these types of activities.

I think it is important to teach families to give to others. It doesn’t have to be about money. Time is much more valuable. We all feel the pressure to do more, get more, spend more. Time spent with an older person is a way to slow down, take a breath and remember to listen, watch and learn. Who knows, maybe that older person could teach you something, making it a double benefit for them and for you.

While together they teach you to knit, crochet, or play an instrument. Maybe they can’t see to read, so you read to them, you read something you wouldn’t normally read, and you both benefit. Many of these activities can be done over the phone, or via FaceTime or Zoom.

The holidays are not about spending money to show you care. The Holidays are about expressing your love, appreciation, and respect for those in your life. Giving time is a wonderful way to do that.

Again, Thank YOU to all of you out there who are helping older people to live a better life. I know there are many of you out there!

Senior Life Matters is a community based program sponsored by Lutheran Jamestown. For questions, concerns or to reach Janell Sluga, GCMC, call us at 716-720-9797 or e-mail at