Some people are just hard to buy for
January 21, 2012 11:03 AM   Subscribe

What should I get my 81-year-old father for his birthday? (special snowflake details inside)

My dad will be 81 on Jan. 31st. We kids were talking about getting him a new laptop, as he has expressed an interest in obtaining one. But the others are having a hard time coming up with the $ right now, so soon after the holidays, and Dad wants to wait until he gets a room set up as an office and of course probably have a say in what machine he gets.

He is a retired educator. Likes to read the paper, but going out for the paper is part of his daily routine (so a subscription is out). Doesn't go out to eat much. Doesn't drink anymore since heart surgery a few years ago.

Got him a nice sweatshirt for the holidays, as he lives in a cold clime. He has hat and gloves and does not wear scarves. Has a wood stove. Likes sports, knows all the stats on every player from just about every American sports team.

Money seems crass and he might be embarrassed by that as a gift. Would probably not use a gift card (closest big store is Walmart, 30 miles away and he hates shopping). Likes a good steak but my sister buys him Omaha steaks (drat her!).

It is very cold where he lives. He has a cool LL Bean indoor/outdoor digital thermometer. All the furniture he needs.

Recently a widower. Something geared toward the man who has everything he wants but prefers to stay home and read (especially this time of year). Not sure if he would read a book but something sports-oriented?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu to Shopping (28 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe a Kindle or something similar? Probably useful to buy new books/reading material through it.
posted by Trexsock at 11:07 AM on January 21, 2012

Ereader came to my mind too.

Or maybe a year of fancier cable-tv sports channels, or wood delivery?

Birdfeeder, maybe with a field guide or binoculars or something to go with it?
posted by box at 11:17 AM on January 21, 2012

I have an older friend who LOVES the kindle for reading. He can change the font size, it is light enough to hold for extended periods and turning the page is not a problem. Also takes it to doctors appts for the waiting room.
posted by R. Mutt at 11:18 AM on January 21, 2012

Netflix subscription?
Opening day tickets to his favorite team?
Satellite radio?

I know he likes to stay at home, but maybe he'd be interested in an adult school class?
posted by apparently at 11:18 AM on January 21, 2012

Maybe a pair of LL Bean Wicked Good Slippers? I got a pair for Christmas and I have barely taken them off since. These are the best slippahs evah!
posted by medeine at 11:19 AM on January 21, 2012

*I should say - the plain kindle, not the new color one. He ordered that one and immediately gave it away.
posted by R. Mutt at 11:19 AM on January 21, 2012

Sirius subscription/receiver? My FIL enjoyed the channels with music and radio shows from his youth.
posted by carmicha at 11:20 AM on January 21, 2012

A copy of this article and a WoW subscription.
posted by apparently at 11:22 AM on January 21, 2012

Does he have a dvd player? Then give him this.

According to my father, best present I ever gave him. Gets played on a regular basis, but just thinking about Victor Borge will have him in stitches. Your dad's in the correct cohort... Danny Kaye movies are also an option.
posted by likeso at 11:22 AM on January 21, 2012

Response by poster: All good suggestions! I should say he doesn't feed the birds anymore since the cat brought some dead ones to the doorstep and my brother works for a satellite subscriber so he has that stuff too. His favorite teams are the Patriots (football) and Cardinals (baseball) and Celtics (basketball). Thought of slippers but he doesn't wear them, wears heavy socks instead.

Really considering the Kindle. He is originally from Maine but lives in the North Woods of WI now. My brothers: one lives with him and one nearby and he has plenty of wood and snow plow help.

Will shut up and read the other suggestions, please keep them coming! Thanks!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 11:24 AM on January 21, 2012

If you're going to go the sports book route Scorecasting by Moskowitz & Wertheim is worth a look. If he's a football fan Badass by Richmond (Raiders), Boys Will Be Boys by Pearlman (Cowboys), Paper Lion by Plimpton (Lions), and North Dallas Forty (Cowboys) by Gent are all interesting. Paper Lion has a journalist embedded with the Detroit Lions and was one of the first non-biased tell-it-like-it-is books on being on a NFL team. Badass is the most entertaining for a non-Raiders fan has the best assortment of characters. The era of Raiders involved pretty much invented new levels of institutional dysfunction while still performing as a winning dynasty. Boys Will Be Boys and North Dallas Forty get very Boogie Nights in their reporting on the most debauchery soaked team in the NFL at the time. Dallas North Forty is a thinly veiled memoir of a former Cowboys player that was given a second life when adapted into a movie.
posted by TaconibsPHD at 11:28 AM on January 21, 2012

Response by poster: I forgot: Alma Mater(s): Trinity, CT, Univ. of CT and Loyola for PhD but never got his paper done. I don't suppose Loyola would give him an honorary Doctorate?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 11:34 AM on January 21, 2012

I got my boyfriend a subscription to MLB TV last year (mostly so I could watch Cubs games!) and! It costs $110 and I know you're waiting on the laptop, but once he gets that, he should be able to hook it up to his tv (some instructions/info here) and watch as many baseball games as he can stand.
posted by jabes at 11:44 AM on January 21, 2012

Which Loyola? Info on honorary degrees from Loyola University Chicago and Loyola University New Orleans.
posted by jabes at 12:02 PM on January 21, 2012

It seems like *more stuff* isn't the answer, unless you do decide to go the Kindle route; houw about *an experience* instead? Since he's a sports fan, try calling the PR office of one of his favorite teams: maybe, just maybe, you can talk some player or coach he likes into making a happy-birthday phone call to him? Or even better, see if you could arrange to have him get a behind-the-scene visit to the team!
posted by easily confused at 12:09 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a man like this in my life. Buy him clothing that's nicer / more comfortable than he'd buy for himself, but that he'd love to wear, like a Merino or Cashmere wool sweater that looks rugged and outdoorsy and feels great. Aim for the $100 range. Nordstrom ships and has a no-questions-asked return policy. LL Bean too.
posted by zippy at 12:23 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

(Ms. Vegetable): I get stamps when I'm out of ideas. They've always gone over well.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 12:47 PM on January 21, 2012

Response by poster: Chicago! I will go check it now, jabes, thanks! He had submitted many proposals, I think relating to helping disabled kids, which were turned down by the uppers, then took a job in education administration out East (due to my mom's mother being ill) with 80-hour work weeks and 5 teenagers and it just went by the wayside. But I know he did some videos at Loyola to help train future teachers, I remember that bit.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 12:49 PM on January 21, 2012

Response by poster: Looks like a high standard, I am not sure who to contact for that :-/ Although he did do a lot of work in regards to disabled kids at his education job in Mass.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 12:51 PM on January 21, 2012

Response by poster: Let me put it this way: he was retired, and took an interim job as supt. of schools in a small town in Wisconsin. I visited him at Thanksgiving and he took me to a local winery. We saw a teacher there, and he introduced me.

She gave me a big hug and said, "Oh, thank you for having such a great dad! I love him!"

My dad was pleased but equally embarrassed. So he is smart and good, but shy. See.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 12:55 PM on January 21, 2012

Possible he'd be interested in a slightly more high tech weather station? Just thinking out loud about what my dad enjoyed in the winter months. Comes with a doohickey you put on the house and then you can monitor what's going on outside from the inside. Other things: humidifier [esp a classic looking one that can go on the woodstove], boxed Ken Burns DVDs or a lecture series, Kindle gift card and then he could run the app on his existing computer for now.
posted by jessamyn at 1:34 PM on January 21, 2012

Are you trying to buy something small until you all buy the laptop? What about getting an ipad instead?

- nice slippers that are easy to slide on (socks can be dangerous for older folks!)
- gift for - teachers request funds for specific projects and if you grant them some money, you often get follow-up letters and photos. Fun for someone interested in education and kids.
- CB radio or worldwide radio
- webcam and set-up to see his kids & family
- electric blanket, or another super nice blanket
- heated mattress pad -- sooo nice in the winter not to crawl into a cold bed!
- new sheets (flannel? they're nice and warm, and quality ones are expensive!)
- new towels (sounds boring but replacing old ratty towels gives a small pleasure each day)
- new bathrobe (if he wears one)
- giftcard to the coffee shop he frequents
- can you visit for the day? or can he come see you for a weekend?
- a bunch of CDs with great podcasts... like Storycorps and whatever relates to his interests
- Band of Brothers DVD set
- electronic weather station -it'll tell him all the details of the weather & forecast. Some older guys love this kind of thing.
- Genealogy software or sign-up to some websites. Some kind of family tree book. A scanner to scan old family photos and the ability to label them.
- pledge to write him a hand-written letter each month, with details of your life and wonderful questions for him to consider and write back.
- Is he online often? gift to - he can listen to his favorite genre and find new music! Or Spotify for that matter.
posted by barnone at 1:42 PM on January 21, 2012

Response by poster: I am trying not to buy the laptop because they said they wanted to delay it. Although one brother found one with a rebate and free upgrades.

He currently as not on the internet. He would love to get onto the internet to talk to his siblings. He had a cellphone that was a Christmas gift from 2 years ago and only recently realized that it was cool because someone's phone number could be stored in there and dialed without looking it up on a notepad. My brother, who lives with him, has internet and shows him things that I send him (hence, wanting to connect with his siblings on Facebook). My sister was just up there to help clear out Mom's stuff, and she "accidentally" left a wireless remote, of which my dad was VERY suspicious. He thought it was somehow "stealing," even though he has DSL internet and my brother uses it all the time. See?

But at his most recent job in a small town in WI, the tech guy there helped him with his email. He used to laugh and tell me about all the farm and viagra spam emails he got every day.

So no. He is not online every day. It all filters though my brother, who may or not may be there due to his work schedule.

It's like this:

Get up, see the temp. Eat, take a shower. Go get paper. Read paper. Eat lunch. Flip through channels in the PM. Think about supper. Make supper. He does have a DVD player and I have sent them DVD's in the past. But none of that has gone over well. Hence, my frustration.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 2:33 PM on January 21, 2012

Seconding 'What about getting an ipad instead?' I am 81 and love it (it was a combined Birthday & Christmas present). With a Kindle app on it, lots of free books, weather, email etc. etc.
But then I am rather geeky and it's still $499 at Walmart.
posted by lungtaworld at 3:03 PM on January 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

Hands down, based on your description, the best electronic for him would be an iPad 2 with the camera for Facetime. Books, Sudoku, lots of music, crosswords, genealogy, recipes, chat, tons of sports stuff, dead simple email. Point and touch. No menu bars, one window for each open application, no folders needed.

Have someone close down some of the unused apps once in a while, and your brother can restart it once a week or so, just to keep it ticking along.

I've said it here on the green before, but we got my 87? 89? year old grandma an iPad and she literally is on it ALL THE TIME. It has decreased her isolation by 100x and that's not an exaggeration. It's easier for her to navigate and execute simple tasks. She calls me up on Facetime all the time, when she'd rarely pick up the phone.
posted by barnone at 7:57 PM on January 21, 2012

Response by poster: iPad is a bit above budget. Think he also wants a laptop to due online banking and reduce paperwork.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:40 AM on January 22, 2012

Response by poster: Do, argh!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:40 AM on January 22, 2012

Response by poster: Sports Illustrated. They send a free football t-shirt and have a bunch of online stuff available as well for when he gets his device.

Thanks for all the suggestions!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:17 AM on January 22, 2012

« Older catching up with an ex, disappointing results   |   Hacker protection tips for ordinary people... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.