Santa is a Senior, so be good to his cohorts! by Linda MacMillan, CFP, CSA

Here we are again. Another holiday season is upon us, December 2007. As we scurry about trying to fit in those extra social activities and shopping duties, let�s not forget the seniors in our lives � whether a grandparent, parent, neighbour or stranger. Santa would not like that!

Don�t think seniors are a homogenous bunch of old, feeble, lonely and isolated �wrinkled people� waiting for someone to pay attention to them though. Our whole notion of who a senior is and what defines them is changing. (The sooner the better as I approach my own senior years!). Some seniors are so busy going back to school, traveling, doing volunteer work that they may be hard to track down to give a gift to. Why, look at old Santa � he is too busy handing out gifts to get any. However, I don�t doubt that Santa gets lots of wishes at Christmas from older people too and that he has a chance while traveling the universe to see what is needed.

It can be equally difficult to know what to get the senior who seems to have everything and the senior who seems to have nothing. After calling the North Pole and interviewing the inventory clerk there I got a sense of the top ten gifts for people over the age of 65 (sometimes appropriate for younger ages). Here they are, with the most important gift at the end.

10: Taxi Chits: How many of us have parents or grandparents who just can�t see their way to spending money on taxis? For anyone born before 1945 it is almost a sin to spend money on cab fare. Give them something they would never give themselves.

9: Spa Treatment: Take your favourite senior to the spa for a day or buy certificates for certain treatments so they can go whenever they feel the need for it. Everyone likes to be pampered. Although men have long enjoyed being pampered many used to resist spa pampering. That too is changing. If there is a local massage school in your community they have excellent deals. Help a student and help a senior.

8: Gift card/certificate: Remember this is for them, not you! Make sure you know what stores they like to shop at or what activities they like to do. Personally I know my mother used to love to buy from local neighbourhood shops where they knew her. Now that I am doing her shopping for her I try to do the same and let her know where I purchased the items to help jog her memory. (She has Alzheimer�s). Gift cards can be a godsend whether they have lots of money or very little, this is a practical gift that lets them make the choice.

7: Gift Baskets: Gift baskets of specialty food items � a little luxury can be a great gift for those who don�t need more knick knacks cluttering the place. Something that can be consumed or shared and not require long term storage is a true treat. For more needy seniors give a gift basket of everyday household items and food along with a pair of warm socks or gloves.

6. Books/Magazine Subscriptions: If you know they have an interest in history, traveling, gardening, golf or some other special subject, get them a book or subscription to a magazine in that area. Just give some thought to the size of the print. Even with reading glasses, big print helps. I know that already!

5. A Computer and how to use it: Seniors are among the fastest growing users of computers and the internet. It is a great way to keep in touch with family across the world and to get information on all the subjects they have an interest in. However, make sure that if they are real novices you spend some time showing them how to use it. This is truly giving the gift of the world at their fingertips, especially if they have mobility issues.

4. Sponsor another Senior on their behalf: Just as there are charities that sponsor children worldwide, there is also an agency that helps disadvantaged seniors around the world. If the senior in your life is a giver � a philanthropist, this may be something that touches their heart. Check out and sign up for the Adopt a Gran program.

3. The Gift of a Shared Meal… Who doesn�t enjoy sharing a meal with friends and family whether is it out at a restaurant or being invited over for an evening of home cooked food and home grown conversation. If you can�t be with them send a certificate for their favourite restaurant � enough for them to treat a friend too.

2. A Family History: These days there are so many great ideas for putting memories together to chronicle a seniors� history through pictures and captions. There are online resources to help you build a picture book with notations chronicling the life of your family member or senior in your life. These can be particularly helpful for seniors or others affected by memory problems. It can help their caregivers get a better sense of who the person was and is now. I am currently working on one for my mother and our family, selecting pictures through the years, adding captions and putting the series to music. As her life is in its final stages it is something we can look at together and something that her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will have to get a sense of their Nana �Spike�.

1. The number ONE gift for Seniors, no matter where you live is spending time with them. Although a phone call is appreciated, time spent in person enjoying a special activity or just listening to stories and having an engaging conversation is the best gift of all. I know when I walk into the room at my mom�s care facility, her face lights up like a megawatt lamp. There is no gift I can give her to take away the limitations old age has placed on her but I can hug her, love her and let her know she is still a great mom.

So, if you want to be in Santa�s nice not naughty file this holiday season � be good to the seniors in your life!

(article courtesy of Canadian Academy of Senior Advisors – The CSA program is North America�s original and premier designation course providing training for professionals and companies wanting to make their business more senior and boomer friendly. To learn how you can join over 25,000 professionals and attain this internationally recognized designation, e-mail your questions to [email protected] or visit the website at ).