What do 80-year-olds want for their birthday?
June 10, 2009 11:41 AM   Subscribe

Gift ideas for an 80-year-old who's virtually a stranger?

My "stepfather" married my mother just before I left for college in 1982. She passed away 13 years later and he remarried about a year after that. He's a fine man, but I don't really know him.

He turns 80 in a couple weeks. I won't be there in person, so I'd like to send something to commemorate the birthday. But what? Any ideas would be welcome.
posted by Work to Live to Human Relations (12 answers total)
He probably already has all the material stuff he wants (and, if there are exceptions, you would need to be on the spot to know). So think consumable things: food, wine, tickets to some kind of event, magazine subscriptions. Music is also a good idea. Hopefully you do at least know how good his teeth/eyesight/mobility/hearing is so as to be able to pick out suitable items from these categories.

Another idea is to contact other people who know him (does he have children from a previous marriage? a neighbour or friends? a caregiver?) and ask them for ideas.
posted by orange swan at 12:00 PM on June 10, 2009

second the food, wine angle ... particularly cheese.
posted by philip-random at 12:05 PM on June 10, 2009

I'm a 78 yr old man and at 80 would much appreciate a good bottle of Merlot, or if not wine, then a good bottle of Bourbon, e.g. Knob Creek.
Is anybody listening?...
posted by lungtaworld at 12:18 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Does he have a really good photo of him and your mother at their wedding? Or on another special day? Or a photo of the three of you together?

I'd give him a framed photo, along with a personal letter telling him that you think he's "a fine man" and thanking him for making the last part of your mother's life so happy.
posted by anastasiav at 12:26 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nice chocolates. They allow the recipient to hand them around magnanimously.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:43 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding photos. Any photos you have of people he knew and loved that maybe he hasn't seen for a while. Present them in some sort of album or collage frame.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:56 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Since he's remarried, I don't think I'd go with a photo of him marrying your mother, but any other photos that show him with you or your mother would be nice, especially ones of the three of you.

And seconding a personal letter also.
posted by marsha56 at 1:18 PM on June 10, 2009

Magazine subscriptions are the gifts that keep on giving. I subscribed to National Geographic for my former neighbor, who's 88 now. Great pics to look at (no need to read the words if eyesight isn't too good), and something to look forward to in the mail.

You don't say whether he's decrepit or not -- maybe a New Yorker subscription, or something more relevant to his interests (science, photography, literature) might work.
posted by vickyverky at 1:55 PM on June 10, 2009

Can you call his new wife and ask her for input? I think National Geographic is a really nice idea if you don't know of (or he doesn't have) specific interests that would lend themselves to a magazine subscription, or something like Scotch or cheese (or something more specific to his life--if there's some sort of treat from his childhood he still likes, etc.), but if he's already a subscriber or is lactose intolerant, that'd be good to know ahead of time.

Alternatively, if he and his wife are mobile enough to go out, you could send a gift certificate for a dinner for two at a nice restaurant near him.
posted by Meg_Murry at 2:39 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

When my grandfather turned 80, he would have wanted exactly what lungtaworld suggests (though the bourbon would have been top priority for him, not the wine).
posted by ocherdraco at 9:10 PM on June 10, 2009

N'thing booze. Dads love it!
posted by cranberrymonger at 7:32 AM on June 11, 2009

Response by poster: Since the guy doesn't drink -- a pity, in my book -- I opted for some chocolates from Godiva. Thanks again for all the ideas.
posted by Work to Live at 4:28 PM on July 12, 2009

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