A senior moment: Being the present or finding it

By Danna Downing

As we approach the holiday season and the year beyond, let’s think about the gifts we give. In our consumer-driven society, we often think more about “shopping people happy” than any other type of giving. Doing this can create pressure, stress and dissatisfaction between both givers and receivers. Maybe we need to think about this in a different way that supports both the giver and the receiver of gifts.

Let’s try shifting from a shopping list to the core reasons we want to give gifts. Sometimes we want to extend a gesture of appreciation to the strangers/friends who provide valuable services to us, and the holidays are a good time to do that. Other times we want to give a gift because it is a family tradition or a customary practice for us and makes for better holiday spirits all around. Whatever the occasion, the true purpose of gift giving is to let others know they are important.

The truth of the matter is that as we age, our needs change and our resources for giving gifts may also be impacted. Finding the right gift can become a burden for both giver and receiver. Let’s explore some alternative ways of giving to make the holiday season more rewarding.

Some honest two-way conversations about the giving process can be helpful, especially between family members and trusted friends. Nowadays we can use email, texting, and phone conversations at a convenient time. Such conversations avoid wasting gas, and the many risks of a shopping trip. Start by thinking about the person you want to reach out to during the holidays. Then give some thought to what you think they might like and what you can reasonably provide as a gift. Most importantly, take the time to check in with the recipient to see if your thoughts are on track, or if a time to visit after the holiday rush might be the very best gift of all. For seniors and busy families, this kind of delay can be a gift in itself. Also, the gift of a mutually satisfying time together can be the perfect present that is affordable and enjoyable for all involved. The icing on top is that the visit can also become a fond memory.

One of my favorite gifts is the gift of information. It might involve sharing a recipe or a book title. For seniors and caregivers, it could include sharing their concerns about growing older and working together to prepare a plan that fits expected needs and supports everyone’s ability to not just survive what can be challenging times. It also needs to be a plan which enriches the aging experience and allows older adults to thrive to the very end of life. In that vein, you might want to consider a gift membership to AARP for yourself and the ones whom you love. AARP reliably provides printed and online information that is created in partnership with aging network researchers and service providers. Such a tool is very affordable and can be a platform upon which to support some of the most important conversations we can have with our loved ones.

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