Gift for my grandfather's 80th birthday
July 14, 2005 12:58 PM   Subscribe

Gift-Filter: Please help me find a birthday present for my grandfather who hates everything.

My grandfather turns 80 this week and I have no idea what to get him. His health is poor, so travel is out of the question. His vision is poor and he has no interest in most electronics.

He recently was hospitalized and since getting out, he has lost interest in virtually everything.

About a year ago he "discovered" CDs and has gotten a variety of music related gifts, but since getting out of the hospital he shows no interest in this.

He has outlived most of his friends, so I worry that some sort of memory book or video would be a reminder of those who aren't there.

He isn't currently living at home and there is some question of whether he will be able to go home again. This pretty much rules out any cool house toys.

A visit from me isn't an option right now.

I have no ideas at this point, and would appreciate any good suggestions.
posted by Sheppagus to Shopping (21 answers total)
How about a recent picture of you, his beloved grandchild? Blow up to 8 x 10 for easy visibility and put in nice frame. I've found the elderly relatives love that kind of thing.
posted by scratch at 1:09 PM on July 14, 2005

Put yourself in his position, and ask what you would like.

He sounds depressed, and he probably has compelling reasons to feel that way. Material stuff would just be useless crap. I'd guess that he would most like to know that you care about him. If you can't visit, I like scratch's idea of a picture, along with a letter with some of your fond memories of him (keep in mind that someone will probably have to read it to him, so nothing too embarrassing).
posted by jasper411 at 1:15 PM on July 14, 2005

How about some sort of lessons or activity that comes to his house?
posted by trevyn at 1:19 PM on July 14, 2005

What did he like to do before?
posted by Pollomacho at 1:20 PM on July 14, 2005

(or, er, wherever he happens to be living)
posted by trevyn at 1:20 PM on July 14, 2005

audio books?
posted by judith at 1:21 PM on July 14, 2005

Write him a letter full of memories of how much he means to you, some things you've done together, or even things you and your family are doing today.
posted by MegoSteve at 1:30 PM on July 14, 2005

Ambient Orb.
posted by grateful at 1:37 PM on July 14, 2005

I had a grandfather who didn't like gifts either. I usually bought him very practical things: sometimes sweaters and shirts, but most often, giant food baskets (I used Zingerman's) or restaurant gift certificates.

I'm not clear if he's living with family or in a rehab or nursing facility. Does he have access to a DVD player? I know you say his eyesight is poor but would he be interested in watching movies? Could you send him some films he might enjoy?

Toward the end of my grandpa's life what he appreciated most was being able to talk to people about his life. I think he wanted to know that he would be remembered. My brother was able to find a picture of the ship he served on during his Navy career, and he really treasured that. Perhaps you could make you grandpa a family tree or find similar mementos for him?
posted by Sully6 at 1:42 PM on July 14, 2005

Does grandpa drink? You could give him the gift of booze. Or perhaps he likes the ladies?
posted by trbrts at 1:43 PM on July 14, 2005

How about something practical like a chair massager/heater or one of those lifting seat cushions? If you can't get him something he'll enjoy, at least you can minimize discomfort.
posted by necessitas at 2:04 PM on July 14, 2005

I was going to suggest a nice letter, like MegoSteve, but do it as an audio cassette and include a small tape player if he doesn't have one. Chances are he would love to get an update on your life, and a tape is more like a face-to-face conversation and he can listen to it whenever. I recently did this for an elderly relative and she loved it and played for everyone she saw.
posted by bendy at 2:18 PM on July 14, 2005

Thanks for all the suggestions. I have several ideas now and really appreciate everyone's help.

Ori, you may want to read the AskMe guidelines so your next post can be even slightly helpful.
posted by Sheppagus at 2:19 PM on July 14, 2005

He needs visitors. If you can't visit, maybe you can arrange for other people to visit. For instance, if you haven't got the time but you have the money, while your sibling has the time but not the money, you could pay to send your sibling to see him.

And it would be very nice of you get him to tell you stories (if you can't visit, then through the phone or through friends or relatives) that you want to add to a history you're writing about him. And really write the thing, of course. Start by writing down what you know and having him fact-check it. Show him your progress so he can comment on it and correct it. You'd both be happy to see something like that come out of your talks.
posted by pracowity at 2:20 PM on July 14, 2005

My recently deceased grandfather was also difficult to shop for. I solved this by asking my grandmother what to give to him - usually a book, pajamas or slippers. Then I would slip him what he really wanted on the side - a bottle of whiskey. Seriously, does he like any liquor? Pajamas and books are always good gifts too. Of course the best gift is that of your time. I know that you said that it's not possible at the moment, but what about phone calls? If he's not a talker, you can just ask him questions to get him involved in the conversation. I found that asking advice/solution type questions worked well with my grandfather, i.e. when should I get new tires for my car? Should I use flat or latex paint? I think that there's a mouse in the basement, how should I catch it? That kind of stuff. It allows him to become in engaged, but isn't all touchy feely. It also tells him that his thoughts and opinions are important to you.
posted by Juicylicious at 2:46 PM on July 14, 2005

If it wouldn't embarrass him, how about a massage?
Maybe just a foot massage?
There are many massage therapists who will make visits to nursing homes/elder facilities of various kinds.
posted by exceptinsects at 3:26 PM on July 14, 2005

A remote control car - think of all the pranks that he could play!
posted by PurplePorpoise at 3:39 PM on July 14, 2005

After years of giving unappreciated gifts to my 90 year old grandfather, I finally found the perfect solution....I gave him things he would have to buy for himself throughout the year.

For example: a few months of his cable subscription, I paid his phone bill for 2 months, bought him his newspaper subscription, and gave him gift certificates to his local grocery store.

All useful and all appreciated.
posted by dagnyduquette at 3:48 PM on July 14, 2005

He sounds depressed.

I think that the memory book you mention would be more likely to cheer him up than bring him down. Elderly people think differently; it seems that the process of reviewing their own life is something that they tend to devote a lot of energy towards, and this is in fact a normal and healthy part of elderly cognition. (You can google for erickson's seven stages if you care to learn more about this framework of understanding ego-integrative processes through life.)

Anyway, a photo album of memories could assist that process a lot.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:36 PM on July 14, 2005

This is what I did for my parents last Christmas:

eBay has tons of old postcards. I bought postcards of the cities that they lived in (also towns that the vacationed in/spent a lot of time in) around the time that they were children/teenagers.

Then I made a collage of sorts and framed it.

The cheapest, but most appreciated gift that I ever could have thought of.

Seriously, search eBay for the town you grew up in... you'll be surprised at what you find.
posted by k8t at 7:46 PM on July 14, 2005

As others have said, he sounds depressed. Something personal and non-materialistic might therefore be the way to go. Letters, photos, etc. I like MegoSteve's suggestion. I know that when I've been depressed things like that mean much more than any crappy "things". Come to think of it, they mean much more to me even when I'm not depressed. And give him a call, too.

It's OK to stop buying presents for people, by the way. Many years ago I asked my family to stop buying things for me at Christmas and birthdays and after some initial resistance I got them to understand that it was just a waste of their time and money since I don't care for "things" any more.
posted by Decani at 10:28 AM on July 15, 2005

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