What on earth can I get my uncle for Christmas?
December 16, 2017 7:37 PM   Subscribe

What can I get my uncle for Christmas? He is house bound and does not have much mobility. He's feeling sad and restless these days and I would love to get him something to cheer him up and keep him entertained. Any suggestions?

I'm almost done with Christmas shopping but am stumped on the very last one - something for my uncle. My uncle is in his late 70s and lives in a house with a live-in aide. He has Parkinsons, but doesnt have the tremors. He walks with a cane and spends most of his days sitting on the couch, watching TV. He is brilliant and wonderful, but has limited mobility and is pretty depressed and lonely most of the time. I live a few hours away but visit him as much as possible, as does the rest of the family.

In his healthier days, he was an architect and is still very interested in real estate and construction. He likes nature shows and anything on the discovery channel. He likes chess and national geographic magazine and old movies.

Here's what I can't get him: books (he has hundreds and has no real interest these days in reading), anything involving the internet (his house doesnt have wifi and I can't get it for him), dvds (he doesnt ever use his dvd player), any clothes (he has a ton but usually wears the same items), any kind of food or booze (he loves sweets and wine but is on a strict diet because of meds), any traditional "dad-esque" stuff like ties or slippers or whatever, because between his sons and his nieces, he already has all that. An experience thing maybe....but he lives in upstate NY and is fearful to leave the house because of his mobility problems. A monthly subscription thing? But what that isn't food related? I would get him a tablet in a second but I can't get wifi to his house.

I am completely without ideas! What can I get him? My budget is up to $100.
posted by silverstatue to Shopping (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Would audiobooks be an option? If so, there might be something among these architecture and design audiobooks that he could enjoy.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 7:43 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Maybe a LEGO architecture set?
posted by ejs at 7:55 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: * 3D jigsaw puzzle
* Weather station
posted by maurreen at 7:57 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was in Target today looking for something for my dad with similar limitations. In the arts and crafts sections they have some pretty nice looking art project kits aimed adults that seem new within the last week or so. Something like that to get his creative side going in an easy low-stakes way might be nice. Or something with writing prompts perhaps, maybe with a promise that you won't make him share anything.
posted by bleep at 8:26 PM on December 16, 2017

Also maybe get each of you one of those new style Polaroids and then mail each other photos through the year.
posted by bleep at 8:28 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Also if they have cell reception you could get him a tablet with a data plan? Although I'm guessing if he can't get wifi then cell reception is out too.
posted by bleep at 8:31 PM on December 16, 2017

Custom hanging wall calendar with family photos
posted by bq at 8:42 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

My Dad has somewhat similar, but less highbrow interests, and somewhat similar, but less severe limitations. Some gifts he has liked:
-- anything with pictures of the grandbabies on it -- mugs, photobooks, t-shirts, fridge magnets, etc.
-- a weather station that has an outdoor sensor and then displays all the details on an indoor display
-- a Gallilean Thermometer
-- one year, my mom got him a bunch of nature channels that weren't in his regular TV channel package like Love Nature and Smithsonian
-- a toilet -- the older low one was hard for him to get on and off, so he got a new higher one for Christmas one year
posted by jacquilynne at 9:17 PM on December 16, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far. I like the idea of the Galileo thermometers!

Bleep, I can't get him anything that might lead to a monthly bill like a cell phone or internet service :(

My cousins (his kids) have him covered with grandkid pix/calendars/etc!
posted by silverstatue at 9:22 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Can he still drink coffee or tea? You could probably get him a subscription box for either of those.
posted by praemunire at 9:31 PM on December 16, 2017

My mother is a bit younger than your uncle, and has fewer limitations, but she doesn't feel good at the end of the day and I was thinking about getting her one of these thermal wraps for evenings on the sofa.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:34 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

How about one of the Great Courses?
posted by bq at 9:54 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

A gentleman I know who has Parkinson's no longer reads books, either, but he still enjoys magazines, especially ones related to his profession. What about a subscription to some architecture or popular science magazines? He watches Great Courses as well. Older retired guys are, like, the bullseye in the Great Courses' target market!

Games for when relatives visit? My friend is very animated when playing cribbage and, I never would have predicted, a tabletop foosball set.

My grandmother's quality of life in upstate New York was improved A LOT in her final years by an electric throw blanket.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 10:20 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Do you think he'd like watching birds? I've never been interested in bird feeders but I recently spent a stupid amount of time watching birds at a friend's house.
I've been meaning to pick one of these up.
They're cheap and finches tend to eat upside down on them which is kind of amusing for some reason. Might be a good thing to tuck in with another gift.
posted by BoscosMom at 11:50 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was going to suggest boardsgames, there’s a lot of new ones that work both as solitaire and as multiplayer and that would appeal to a sharp old dude. Pandemic can be played solo or with others for example, and your local game shop will have more suggestions.
posted by Iteki at 1:07 AM on December 17, 2017

How about a metronome. Here is a list. Metronomes and music therapy have been used to mitigate Parkinsons, as I understand it to unearth the 'eigenfrequency' the brain still functions on when walking.
posted by Eltulipan at 1:14 AM on December 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hi silverstatue!

I would get him a tablet in a second but I can't get wifi to his house.

I still think a tablet (and a tablet stand) is a strong contender here, and wouldn't rule out the tablet because of a lack of Internet -- it still has a lot of uses! Think of all the stuff you can do on a computer or tablet or smartphone (without the phone part) when Internet is down or it's in airplane mode. You could set up the tablet with a new account for him and install apps he might like before giving it to him, and show him all the various apps.

Lots of single-player games he could play offline that he could play at his own pace. I'm sure there are tons of chess apps that have single-player modes where he could play against the AI rather than a real person over the Internet. Same goes for puzzle games, board games, card games, etc. My mother is a little younger than your uncle and she loves playing sudoku (she likes a version from this developer; I can say that at least the free unlimited one for iOS can be played offline).

You could load up music he might like, or podcasts or as the return of the thin white sock said, audiobooks. Digital photos. If it's easy to access with usb or supports a memory card, each time someone visits him they could drop in some new photos or mp3s / podcasts etc, and video messages from you that he can choose to rewatch when he's feeling particularly lonely and wants to see/hear you.

You could also show him how to use the tablet camera, in case he finds that interesting -- maybe record a video with you both in the same frame and he can have that to rewatch later, too. You could load up some music-based apps, maybe a piano keyboard or something that would let him experiment with recording or making music if there's a chance he might try that out. (I don't have a good link at the moment but I remember reading about cases where music had a positive effect on people with Parkinson's -- both listening and playing music.)

Also: although he doesn't read much now, maybe the ability to increase the font size easily and adjust contrast will help -- in which case loading up a bunch of ebooks would give him the option to try those out.

There are also apps to explore the universe/stars/solar system -- I used to have one on my old PC years ago and it didn't require Internet, so I would guess there's a few offline space-related apps. If you do another AskMe for offline tablet apps / games etc that your uncle might like, you'll probably get some more focused suggestions. Here are some prior offline game AskMes (granted they're at least four years old and all geared for iPad): Offline ipad games | Great OFFLINE iPad apps for old farts | Best iPad apps, special offline snowflake edition.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 4:02 AM on December 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

One thing I meant to say about creating music: a fantastic thing about music sequencing software is that it doesn't require you to play music correctly in real-time. I'm not much of a pianist. So I can pick from a wide range of sounds / synthesized instruments, awkwardly attempt to arrange to put together a bunch of notes at my own pace and then easily edit them around, also at my own pace. So even if your uncle is not historically a music creator or a musician, it might be cool to have that option there in case he wants to explore it. Recently I've been using NanoStudio which looks like it's only available for iOS, Mac or Windows. If you end up going with a tablet and it's on Android, I'd be glad to help look for a good free music sequencer app for it (because I'm interested in one for Android myself).

Also another previous AskMe thread about offline games (did not have the "offline" tag): Best subway Android apps?
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 4:22 AM on December 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: - Audiobooks

- A massage therapist to come to his house and massage him (they bring their own massage tables! You can get massage therapists who are super knowledgeable about chronic pain!)

- A chef to come to his house and cook for him within his dietary limitations

- For a donation, some raptor sanctuaries will bring owls, eagles to your home for a brief visit, supervise them, and then take them away again;

- Some petting zoos will bring cute pattable animals to your home, supervise them, and then take them away again
posted by Murderbot at 6:22 AM on December 17, 2017

For example:

Two by Two Zoo
Petting Zoo from Pleasant Valley, NY - Will travel up to 100 miles

"Our mobile zoo package is called the ZOO EXPRESS it is ideal for birthdays, camps,daycares, libraries & nursery schools, animals include: a rabbit, ducks, a kangaroo, a tortoise, a small snake, a bearded dragon . We also have our program the Large Zoo perfect for Fairs, Community Events. Animals include: lemur, parrots,Kangaroo, Tortoise, Boa constrictor, Ball Python and small petting zoo with goats and a rabbit. We also have an INDOOR ASSEMBLY program called WILD WORLD OF ANIMALS. we run this program indoors year round! 35-45 min Educational Presentations. Animals include Alligator, Blue & Gold Macaw, Lemur, Kangaroo, Tortoise, and a Boa Constrictor. Conservation thru Education is the message.

We are USDA licensed and fully insured. We provide a handwashing station for all our packages.There are 3 packages available to purchase. Each varies in size and amount of animals provided."
posted by Murderbot at 6:26 AM on December 17, 2017

Seconding the offline tablet idea. There are indeed some great chess apps out there, with puzzles/problems and play-against-computer options! (Some of them are a little *too* great, in fact; my chess-enthusiast partner has had to uninstall them because they're too engrossing. Depending on whether you go android or iOS i could offer suggestions?) It would be even more fun if he *could* get wifi, as you can play in real-time with players at your level around the world, that way. But you could certainly download the apps for him, and they do work offline as well.
posted by halation at 9:02 AM on December 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This is all so great! I went with the Galileo thermometer, but there are so many other ideas here for the future. I absolutely love the idea of someone bringing animals to the house for him to meet! I will also look into a tablet loaded with offline stuff, maybe for Fathers Day. Thanks again!
posted by silverstatue at 11:45 AM on December 17, 2017

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