I need a gift for my 80-year-old auntie
November 7, 2007 7:06 AM   Subscribe

Help me find a good gift for my beloved, octogenarian, Luddite Aunt.

My auntie turns 80 this year and we are throwing her a nice party. My wife and I love her to death and would like to get her a good, meaningful gift but - like every other time we've shopped for her - we have no good ideas.

She lives alone and has a house full of chotchkes, so a little statue or other trinket is out. She likewise is up to (and over) her ears in hats, scarves, gloves, etc. She likes TV and is reliant on her old-school VCR Plus to record shows. We thought of a TiVo but she is too intimidated by it to use it. That same reasoning rules out all but the simplest technology. She likes the St. Louis Cardinals and Notre Dame football, but has tons of gear from those teams and can't travel well so a roadtrip to a game is out. She's got 79,000 photographs in an equal number of frames so that's not really an option. We want the present to be meaningful or lasting.

Our current best idea is a flowers-of-the-month club, where a nice bouquet will be delivered to her each month. That's pretty, and will provide fresh flowers to her year-round. And she is a widow so she doesn't really have anyone to send her flowers otherwise.

Is there a brilliant idea we have not considered? All suggestions (including good f-o-t-m clubs) are welcome. Our budget is variable, up to several hundred dollars.
posted by AgentRocket to Shopping (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How about D-O-T-M? Dinner of the month. Once a month you treat her to dinner. You could plan out an itenary - ie January we are going out for Italian, February its seafood, etc, etc.

Your time might be more valuable to her than any material object...and everyone needs to eat so....
posted by ian1977 at 7:17 AM on November 7, 2007

F-O-T-M is not much bang for your buck. You'd really do better with dinner, and she'd get to visit with company. You could take turns taking her out if you wanted to. What she probably would enjoy most is a chance to have family around her.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 7:24 AM on November 7, 2007

I have a granny who has chotchkes up to her eyeballs, too. When asked what she would like for gifts, her two requests are pictures (of us and the great grand-kids) and food items. I always try to put together a nice food basket and she has loved everything I sent her from Wolfermans.com. Also, Harry and David always has a nice selection of delectable gifts and food of the month.

For the pictures, I don't frame them, I just send her a stack of pictures and she periodically changes the pictures out with ones already in frames. That way we're not adding to all the frames and the pictures that she has displayed are always up-to-date.

These might not seem "special" enough, but when it came down to it, I wanted to get something that she wanted - so I asked.

Another idea is one of those photo blankets or gifts - you can have a picture of you, family, whatever, put on a blanket or a pillowcase.

And instead of perhaps getting her one gift, why not put together a really great basket of a bunch of stuff? I love things like that - it's like opening your Christmas stocking. Lots of neat little things - food, pictures, slippers, lotion, stationary with stamps, a dvd, etc.
posted by Sassyfras at 7:28 AM on November 7, 2007

Totally seconding ian1977, was coming to say exactly the same thing...DOTM. Your time is the most valuable and appreciated thing you could give her. The DOTM gives her something enjoyable to look forward to and to talk about afterwards. To give her on her birthday: make up a memory book with a page (Jan, Feb, Mar, etc) devoted to each future month's dinner so she can put in a photo from the dinner, paste in a menu, jot down reactions to new tastes, etc.
posted by iconomy at 7:28 AM on November 7, 2007

Another thought - a digital photo frame. My husband and I gave one to his parents, who don't even own a digital camera. Then we (and my husband's siblings too) take photos of everyone at family events and upload them every month or so to the frame, so that they always have current family photos to look at and show off. They LOVE it and they look forward to our visits to update the frame. Your aunt won't have to do anything except sit back and enjoy the show.
posted by iconomy at 7:35 AM on November 7, 2007

Dinner of the month is a little presumptuous because she might not want to spend that time with you, on your schedule. She might have bingo or something, even if she loves you very much. You might simply keep her in mind throughout the year, instead of making plans so far ahead.

My grandmother loves gift certificates to the grocery store--last year a few cousins and I got her one for $500. She's so frugal it lasted her 7 or 8 months. If you want something fancy, this might not work, but it's really nice to give someone flexibility in their budget. Especially a retired person, they often live on fixed incomes and that can be a bit stifling, I think.

Another way to give her a hunk of cash is to put a lot of money on an American Express gift card and let her use it as she likes, and gives her the chance to take her friends out and be generous with your gift.

Good luck--I think this is really sweet of you.
posted by sondrialiac at 7:53 AM on November 7, 2007

I think flowers-of-the-month would be lovely. But spring for the fresh-boxed-stems approach and get her one really nice vase -- otherwise it's a zillion little cheapo containers that collect dust.

For a second small gift (or stocking stuffer if you guys are celebrating Xmas next month) I find that The trick is to find something that didn't seem like "a waste of money" that addresses something specific to that person. tStuff that is "practical" but a little goofy or cute. My mom loves her cow-shaped crumb-vacuum because it's saves her the trouble of laundering the tablecloths as often and is easier than using a sponge to get up the crumbs. AND that it's cute enough to be left out. My dad loves the small LED flashlights I give him so that he can read the menus at restaurants (especially if the flashlights have some other function, like a compass or temperature gauge or anything that makes my engineer dad say, "neat!")
posted by desuetude at 8:08 AM on November 7, 2007

You said she was a Luddite, but does she drive or use public transportation? I always buy my eldest relatives car wash gift certificates. Who wouldn't love a year's worth of free car washes or a filled bus fare card? It's not particularly meaningful, but it's useful and may be greatly appreciated.
posted by LoriFLA at 8:20 AM on November 7, 2007

Depending on how persnickety she is, you might want to buy (or otherwise provide) a year of house-cleaning service for her. Or, depending on where and how she lives, a season of snow shoveling, lawn mowing, etc.

Think about her lifestyle and what chores or responsibilities she has that require her time and labor and see what you can do to relieve that burden.

In a similar vein, maybe her house needs painting, or the roof repaired or a garage door fixed or her car tuned-up.

Obviously, older folks need to stay active, but you could try to identify some of the things she does that she may not enjoy and save her the trouble.

Likewise, she may not want to accept a gift of something she thinks she should be providing for herself, so you'll have to be thoughtful and diplomatic, but there's got to be something.
posted by OilPull at 8:36 AM on November 7, 2007

Housecleaning service sounds great. Also, I know my elderly parents appreciate the "dinner of the month" concept - but as actual premade dinners delivered from a place called Home Bistro. You pop the packages in the microwave or in a pot of water (like frozen peas) and voila - a lovely, complete dinner. Or, you could have actual cooked dinners or food delivered.

Instead of flower of the month, how about fruit of the month? That's a thoughtful, edible, and nutritious gift.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:49 AM on November 7, 2007

Notecards, envelopes and stamps.
Find a professional organizer/declutterer to help her weed out closets.
Housecleaning/Spring cleaning service is nice, or a handyman / fixit service for the many minor jobs that pile up.

Flowers of the month is really nice, and many older people don't routinely pick up flowers at the grocery, so really appreciate it.

Most of all, your time. Visit, call, and email often; she'll value that the most.
posted by theora55 at 8:57 AM on November 7, 2007

Does she knit? Craft?

DVD set of Ken Burns' The War. And a promise to come watch it with her. Show up with popcorn or her favorite snack, flowers, and some wine. Then talk about it afterward.

This Barefoot Dreams blanket. I've said it on the green a few times, but seriously this blanket is an awesome gift. It's warm, cuddly, not itchy, can be washed, and is so so soft. It's great for folks who hang out at home, and if/when they get sick or are in bed more, it'll become their favorite blanket. Comes in all colours, sizes, and I promise it'll be a hit.

Super nice new plush towels. Bamboo is really absorbent and soft. Get a big set of them. Get a really nice robe - not a huge terry one (they are too heavy for some older folks, and too bulky to move in).

Theatre tickets - a ballet, an older play, etc. Precede it with a nice dinner. Maybe a set for now, and a set for the spring?

Someone to come over and give her a pedicure, manicure and a massage. Once a month if you can afford it. Maybe a few times a year if not. It's super super nice for someone who isn't touched often to get a massage, and it's even easier for them when it's at their house if mobility is an issue. If not, a local spa will be cheaper but make sure she goes ;-)
posted by barnone at 10:06 AM on November 7, 2007

Seconding the blanket idea
posted by chickaboo at 10:54 AM on November 7, 2007

I spend a lot of time around seniors, and the one consistent grumble I hear (aside from health problems) is not enough time with younger family members. The dinner or lunch out with you is a good idea, if you can work out a mutually agreeable time. Second the digital photo frame, too. If getting out of the house is hard for her, promise a hand-written note in the mail once a week or a consistent phone call time.

Congrats to your auntie for living so long!
posted by littlegirlblue at 11:04 AM on November 7, 2007

Does she read much? Persphone Books are lovely editions of "neglected" works, mainly of women writers of the early twentieth-century. They deliver to the US, and are gorgeous.
posted by goo at 7:46 AM on November 8, 2007

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