What should I get my Grandpa?
November 12, 2009 10:23 PM   Subscribe

You: a man in your mid eighties, in a "nursing home"
Me: Granddaughter visiting for just a day.
Question: what would be the most awesome gift that I could leave with you that would provide amusement or happiness?

I searched and found a similar question, and I will check out the idea of a bird feeder (like if there is one already or if it would be allowed). I have given him cd's before and I don't know how easy it is for him to access the cd player, plus he has a "roommate" so that might complicate things.

I know that a visit and my company is the best gift, but this is not easy for me as we are not in the same city. I will be visiting him this weekend - just overnight, but I want to leave something that he will enjoy. My Grandma died last year so I really want to give him something special.

He was a mechanic in the air force, an avid square dancer and used to be a real fix it kind of guy. He's not much of a reader, I don't think. Also, he is/was a "naturalist" - (ie nudist) a fact I only recently found out!

In the past I have got him things like: a calendar of old cars, a Johnny Cash cd, a nice bolo tie, various foods.
posted by smartypantz to Shopping (35 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I am going up this Saturday, so it has to be something I can easily find in the mall or what have you.
posted by smartypantz at 10:26 PM on November 12, 2009

Best answer: If food is allowed, buy some nice rare cheese (and crackers, of course). By the time my dad hit 80, this was the only thing I could buy him that put a genuine smile on his face.
posted by philip-random at 10:32 PM on November 12, 2009

Maybe some brain-teaser puzzles like these? I find that most malls have a store that has similar items.
posted by honeybee413 at 10:33 PM on November 12, 2009

Are you able to take him out for a trip to the shops? If so, do. If he sees something that he likes, totally get it for him. The memory of your visit, the trip away from the home and the gift you got him will probably put a smile on his face for some time to come.
posted by Effigy2000 at 10:45 PM on November 12, 2009

It depends on whether he has dementia or not (my apologies for asking). If he's still sharp, a photo album of you and your relatives would be nice. Grandkids especially!

Maybe a book with photos of the planes of the US Airforce from the time he served, so he can show his buddies at the home what he did.
posted by zippy at 10:46 PM on November 12, 2009

If he likes to listen to cds but has issues accessing a player, what about a portable cd player with headphones? I suppose you'd have to find one suitable for his level of dexterity and eyesight, but it once he was set up you could continue to send him music and other stuff like radio shows, or you could burn him cd's of podcasts.
posted by amethysts at 10:59 PM on November 12, 2009

Digital photo frames are relatively cheap now and are good for places with limited storage like a nursing home. Try to get one that reads SD cards or similar and load one up with family photos. Then you and others can send updated cards with new albums.
posted by Yorrick at 11:11 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Similar to Effigy2000......if you can take him for a ride in the car in the countryside. My parents were in nursing home and I used to travel there whenever I could. I'd push the wheel chair(s) all over the halls, over and over and over again. It was much better than sitting in the room. But getting them into the car for a ride was a real treat. Especially if its to see the scenic country. Just drive around and let them tell you where to go, so to speak. Take him to see

Sitting by the window and just talking. Preferably where theres something going on. Birds, cars, people, dogs, etc.
Photos are good.
Maybe a magazine or two ( naturalist ?) Surprise him :-))
A tee shirt with something on it he can show off to others. Maybe a picture of family. You can have them made up.
A square dancing video/DVD. Even if its instructional. He may have forgotten a few steps.

Maybe show up in a square dancing outfit. That would really give him a smile. And that would be....... priceless. He'd love it!
posted by Taurid at 11:12 PM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have it on good authority that the best gift you'd be able to give him is to show up, talk to him for a while, then come back the next day and do it again. When you're not being visited on a daily basis, having visitors two days in a row is (I'm told) really wonderful.
posted by davejay at 11:16 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

How much you lookin' to spend? I'd suggest a Nintendo DS and the game Brain Age, or something similarly addictive and challenging. Maybe with a pair of earplugs/headphones, so he doesn't disturb his roommate.
posted by polyester.lumberjack at 11:21 PM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

Photo album?
posted by Billegible at 11:58 PM on November 12, 2009

used to be a real fix it kind of guy.

Models? Model engines?
posted by rodgerd at 11:59 PM on November 12, 2009

If you go with the bird feeder, perhaps a book about local ornithology and a good pair of bird-watching binoculars?
posted by invisible ink at 12:13 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Don't take anything of value. It WILL be stolen. Photo albums with clear labels is fantastic. Or the sticky hooks that can be removed without damaging the paint and some labelled photos in frames for his wall.

And if you have access to a nice dog.... take a dog in with you. Ask the nursing home first, of course. Oh, and some strong flavoured snacks. Old taste buds don't taste the same way as young ones.

Oh, and perhaps his favourite beer/spirits with some peanuts. Check with him about his medications... but most nursing homes encourage a bit of booze. You don't have to ask their permission to give him booze if he has all his faculties... he's still an adult. But you do have to make sure it's safe to mix with his medications.
posted by taff at 1:06 AM on November 13, 2009

Electronic picture frames that run a slideshow are nice for the elderly. Pick up a 10 inch model on newegg and scan a lot of your family's older photos, put them on a sd card, put card in frame...
posted by thewalrus at 3:31 AM on November 13, 2009

The best gift you can leave him with is a calendar with the date circled when you'll be back.
posted by inturnaround at 4:40 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

As much as I love the DS, I think the controls might be a little small/hard to use for someone who is older and not used to gaming.

I'd suggest movies, assuming he has access to a TV and DVD player or VCR. Does he talk about his days in the armed forces? If it's something that he doesn't hesitate to talk about, a few videos or DVDs from the History Channel might hit the spot.

Also, candy. My grandfather used to love when we brought him candy.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:00 AM on November 13, 2009

Having just seen "Up" I would suggest an album with memories. Mix family photos and print-outs of headlines (maybe from microfiche from the local library)? Dewey beats Truman, etc. (or ones that would particularly speak to him).
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:05 AM on November 13, 2009

An electronic chess set will keep his old brain box in good nick.

And visit him more.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:47 AM on November 13, 2009

Food treats and classic movies you should be able to find on short notice. You could also download and put together a nice CD of old radio comedy acts like Bob and Ray, Burns and Allen, Jack Benny, etc.
posted by drlith at 5:58 AM on November 13, 2009

I second a snap together model. One that has moving parts. One that I can paint or ad decals too.

Lego's would be cool too.
posted by bleucube at 6:07 AM on November 13, 2009

Best answer: Not sure if he's into crosswords, but maybe make a crossword puzzle creating clues from his life (ie. first pet's name, high school, granddaughter's middle name, wife's favourite colour).
This was a big hit with grandparents last xmas in our family.
posted by Wilberto at 6:43 AM on November 13, 2009 [4 favorites]

I totally agree with Effigy2000 and Taurid. A trip to the countryside or to the ocean, lake, somewhere out of the city. Then take pictures and come back and visit and share the pictures.
posted by jmmpangaea at 6:47 AM on November 13, 2009

Response by poster: Wow, this is great!

I think he's getting a bit slower mentally and isn't very mobile so I think I'm going for some nice cheese and crackers, a bottle of rum (i'll check with the home first) and a nice shirt or t-shirt. And I will visit him twice, once on Saturday and once on Sunday, just to give him a good dose of company!

And yes I will try and visit him again soon!

Thanks everyone for your very thoughtful answers!
posted by smartypantz at 6:47 AM on November 13, 2009

Response by poster: And I'll see if I can find any appropriate magazines too - are there any good naturalist magazines out there that aren't pornographic? Or maybe slightly erotic might be a nice surprise!
posted by smartypantz at 6:49 AM on November 13, 2009

Wii - maybe bring to grandpa, but suggest it to be used in the common room - would that make it less likely to "disappear"?
Erector set - do they still make these?
and I hesitate to suggest it, but maybe Playboy magazine. Maybe it's not for your grandpa or for you to be the one to give it, but maybe ok for someone else who is reading this answer looking for ideas.
posted by CathyG at 6:50 AM on November 13, 2009

Best answer: A few years ago I brought my grandparents a set of nerf guns. My grandmother wouldn't let me leave them with her because as she said, "I'd be tempted to use them too much." but my grandfather, who was losing mobility at the time (Parkinsons), took one and managed to aim with impressive accuracy and with a tiny smile. If your grandfather has a good sense of humor, this might be a good gift.

A magazine subscription or something else that will come every month. My aunt does the flower of the month thing with my grandmother, but flowers may not be your grandfather's thing.

I'll nth the suggestion of taking him out for a drive. Depending on your grandfather's mobility, a trip to a Target or the suchlike may be welcome - they have those electric ride on things which may make it easier for him.

A copy of Jane's aircraft recognition guide might be fun.

Nursing home food sucks. Take him out for a good burger.

Send him a care package a month later.
posted by sciencegeek at 7:06 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Go to a walmart or other huge store. There are usually bins of really cheap old ( black and white, public domain, etc.) movies on DVD. I'm talking the $2.00 or $3.00 per disc, sometimes with two or three movies on each. Grab an armful. He can set up several movie nights at the home and he'll be the talk of the town.
posted by Gungho at 7:08 AM on November 13, 2009

Best answer: How about a framed 5x7 photo of you smiling a big, loving, ebullient smile into the camera holding a sign that says I LOVE YOU GRANDPA! It'll be like a mini visit for him every day when he looks at it and a reminder that he's not forgotten.
posted by kookoobirdz at 7:17 AM on November 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

does the place have internet? and does he have access to a computer? Turn him on to Ask Mefi, TED Talks, Bloxorz....
posted by at at 11:03 AM on November 13, 2009

If this is within your price range, I suggest you get him the most basic iPod shuffle, and fill it with his favourite music. Nostalgic music has an incredibly beneficial effect on seniors. (I'd also recommend a first gen shuffle instead of the new one, as the headphone adaptor on the newer ones are total pants. )
posted by elizardbits at 1:41 PM on November 13, 2009

Response by poster: So - I got him a mickey of fancy spiced rum, a magazine with "true stories what it feels like to..." "get naked in the outdoors, paddle off a 100-foot waterfall"...etc and a calendar of film posters from the 40's that has some saucy ladies like Jane Russel. I wanted to get the other classic 40's pin ups but I was afraid of what my religious parents would say (there was a lot of nudity and really suggestive poses)!

Thin Lizzy also pointed out this question so I am going to bring him some curry from his favorite restaurant, because I just remembered how much he LOVES curries, and having the smells around would certainly put a smile on his face.


I'm excited about how many cool answers there are to my question...askme rocks!
posted by smartypantz at 1:48 PM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I just noticed I wrote cd's instead of cds - a total pet peeve of mine...how embarrassing!
posted by smartypantz at 2:10 PM on November 13, 2009

You can also spread out the fun. Package up a lot of these small things, esp. ones that fit in an envelope, and address and stamp them. Send him something every week or so. It's boring and dull, and depressing in a nursing home. He'll get a huge boost from your visit. He'll get a nice reminder of it when you send him little cards and gifties.

You could get a cheap music player and load it up. If it gets swiped, it's not a huge deal. Label anything like that, as some things actually get mislaid.
posted by theora55 at 2:44 PM on November 13, 2009

Take him fishing maybe. I did this with my Dad had lots to talk about back at the nursing home. He didn't catch anything, but every one knew he was going and asked him about it. He loved it. Just thought maybe for the next time you visit your grandfather.

BTW, the not catching any wasn't very important. To either of us.

Oh, and take your camera!
posted by Taurid at 1:02 AM on November 14, 2009

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