gift ideas for the elderly

Gift Ideas for the Elderly:

with Hearing, Vision and Cognitive Issues

Coming up with gift ideas for the elderly can be difficult at the best of times.

Buying for elderly with sensory issues such as decreased hearing, poor vision or cognitive/memory difficulties can make it even harder.

Fortunately, I've put a lot of thought and research into finding gifts that will make your loved one's (and your own!) life easier and more enjoyable.

Below are categories of gift ideas for the elderly with hearing, vision and cognitive difficulties.

Take a look and see if you find something that your aging parent or loved one needs or will make their life more enjoyable.

Sometimes the only chance you get to introduce something new is on a birthday or at Christmas.

Gifts for Elderly with Hearing Issues

gift ideas for the elderly

Here are some gift ideas for the elderly with hearing difficulties:

1) Amplified Telephone

Consider the following features:

  • Adjustable volume control
  • Hearing aid compatible
  • Powerful speaker

2) Alarms

These can make great gift ideas for the elderly with hearing impairments. They are alarms designed specifically for elderly with visual, auditory or tactile (touch) alerts such as flashing, strobing, vibrating and/ or extra-loud ringers.

  • Bed shakers: alarms with bed-shakers attached to wake a person with decreased hearing. These can often be combined with an alert for the phone/door.
  • Vibrating travel alarms: small, portable alarms with powerful vibrators can be placed under their pillow.

gift ideas for the elderly

3) Headsets for Listening to the Radio, TV or Stereo

  • These headsets can come with earbuds or over the ear headphones.
  • They allow a person to adjust the volume and tone desired without disturbing other people in the room - who can adjust the volume to suit their own needs.

4) Alert for the Phone or Door

  • Plugs into a lamp which flashes with different sequences for the phone or door.

5) Watches

  • With vibrating alarms and reminders.

6) Outdoor Floor Mat Alert

  • A sensor can be placed under the outdoor floor mat that will let your loved one know someone is outside the front door with a visual, vibration or extra-loud alert.

7) Personal Amplification Systems

  • A headset option that allows the senior to increase the volume of conversations, movies, theatre productions or any situation where the senior has difficulty hearing.

8) Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

  • Can have added features such as strobe, extra-loud alarm or bed shaker.

Gifts for Elderly with Vision Issues

gift ideas for the elderly

Decreasing vision is a normal part of the aging process. It can also be a symptom of certain diseases such as Parkinson's Disease or Diabetes. Risk of diseases such as macular degeneration also increases with age.

If your loved one has difficulty with vision, here are some gift ideas for the elderly suggestions:

1) Games and Activities:

  • Large print playing cards
  • Playing card holder
  • Large print crosswords
  • Large print books
  • Audiobooks
  • Large print bingo cards
  • Specialty games with slots for the pieces, large print or raised dots: games such as chess, checkers, tic-tac-toe and dominoes are available
  • Large-button, universal, "easy" TV remote

2) Lighting:

  • Sensor lights for outdoors (installing them yourself is a good idea)
  • Small clip-on lights or gooseneck lights for tasks (reading, knitting, tinkering, etc.)

3) Outdoor and Community Use:

  • Anti-glare sunglasses with protection from the sides and top or sunglasses that fit-over regular glasses
  • Money and organizer wallet: has separate compartments for different bills and change
  • Talking compass

gift ideas for the elderly

4) Magnifiers:

  • Magnifier and/or penlight to read labels, small print, price tags, medication bottles, etc.
  • TV magnifying screen
  • Magnifying lamp
  • Magnifiers, there are multiple brands and types:
    • Illuminated or non-illuminated
    • Pocket
    • Bar or paper-weight style: for people that find holding a magnifier too tiring
    • Electronic magnifiers: these are expensive but work well from my experience. They often have multiple buttons and functions so the person is better able to use one if they are cognitively well. If this is a concern, try and find a model that is simple and straight forward to use.

It is usually a good idea to consult with a visual impairment expert to recommend the best fit for a magnifier for your loved one.

5) Day-to-Day Function:

gift ideas for the elderly

  • Signature or letter writing guides
  • Large print calendar
  • Large print planner or address book
  • Adjustable or portable bookstands
  • Lap desks: these are often a hard surface built onto a beanbag-type pillow so it can be rested on one's lap and adjusted as needed
  • Mini tape recorder for "To Do" lists or shopping lists
  • Talking tape measure
  • Talking calculator
  • Talking watch: can come in a keychain version
  • Talking alarm clock
  • Phone with the following features:
    • Speakerphone option
    • Talk back when dialing
    • Talking caller ID for incoming calls
    • One-touch memory keys (that store frequently used numbers)
    • Large keys that illuminate
    • Bright ringer display

6) Household Use / Kitchen:

  • Silicone baking-wear: decreases risk of burns, come in a variety of colors that are easier to see than black or grey
  • Knife guard: slips over the top of the blade of the knife and allows the person to put pressure safely through the knife
  • Alert for pouring liquid: device is attached to a glass and let's a person know when the liquid is close to the top of the container by sounding an alert
  • Microwavable bacon cooker (mmmm.. bacon!)
  • Boil alert disk: to alert the person when water is boiling
  • Plate guard/ bumper: clips on the plate and provides a surface for pushing food up against, will assist a person to know where the plate ends and help with less spills
  • Lipped plate: provides a surface for pushing food up against, will assist a person to know where the plate ends and help with less spills

7) Household Use / Bathroom:

  • Magnifying mirror
  • Low vision thermometer
  • Talking blood pressure monitor
  • Talking bathroom scale

8) Household Use/ Other:

  • Sock organizers: keeps socks together in the hamper, through the washer and dryer and then for easy match-up to put back into the drawer
  • Electronic talking colour identifier: will help with matching clothing and other items
  • Wireless locator tags and remote: can be attached to items that go missing frequently (TV remote, keys, etc). With the press of a button, a sound will emit to help locate the missing item. The only problem is when you can't find the locator remote!
  • Stationary bike or other seated exercise equipment are easier to use for people with visual impairment

If you live in Canada, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) is a good reference for purchasing gifts for the elderly with visual impairments or other practical assistance. In America, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a non-profit organization to assist people with visual impairment.

Gifts for Elderly with Cognitive Issues

gift ideas for the elderly

It's challenging to find the right gift to buy for elderly with cognitive difficulties. Will it be too complicated? Will it be confusing?

There are many gift ideas for the elderly listed above and below this section that might fit your loved one as well.

There are also many suggestions listed under our page on Gifts for Elderly: Spending Quality Time Together that focus on spending quality time with a loved one.

When considering gift ideas for the elderly with cognitive issues, remember there are several components for promoting brain health:

  1. Keeping the brain active with games, reading, new activities, new learning, etc.
  2. Keeping the body fit
  3. Frequent social contact
  4. Eating healthy: see our pages on Elderly Nutrition, Elderly Nutrition - Healthy Eating Tips, and Elderly Nutrition - Vitamins and Minerals.

Below are some specific gift ideas for the elderly who have cognitive difficulties:

1) General:

gift ideas for the elderly

  • Photo albums labeled with each person's name, the event and date
  • Framed photograph with names
  • Photo collages with names under the pictures
  • CD's with your loved one's old favourites on it
  • Book of pictures for a place they have a connection with. Not only will this make the senior feel happy, it may also help to keep conversation flowing as it gives you something to talk about.
  • Classic movies and TV shows
  • Tapes or CD's of classic radio shows that can be played
  • Picture books related to their interests/hobbies
  • Special clothing that is easier to get on and off:
    • Comfortable
    • Easy to remove
    • Easily washable
    • Wrinkle free nightgowns

2) Brain Activities:

  • Easier games such as Rummy-o, Fishin'opoly or Rummoli:
    • They should be played along with someone who can assist the game to move along smoothly.
    • They may still be too hard for your loved one. Don't play if they find it frustrating.
  • Easy activity books with crossword puzzles or games but only if your loved one is used to do these types of activities. If not, it might be frustrating for them.
  • Books or other reading material of interest
  • Simple games or puzzles

3) Keeping the Body Fit

Anything that promotes physical wellness make excellent gift ideas for the elderly, such as:

  • Going for a walk each week with your loved one
  • A chair exercise or senior exercise video
  • Vouchers for senior's yoga or other exercise classes
  • Gym pass if they have someone to accompany them
  • Personal trainer that works specifically with seniors

4) The Power of Interaction:

Social contact:

  • Doing anything with the senior: having tea, community activities, grocery shopping, etc.
  • If you live far away, you can consider asking if any churches will send someone to visit weekly or consider a paid caregiver to spend social time with your loved one

5) Elderly Nutrition:

  • Cookbook with recipes specific to healthy eating for elderly
  • A bright water bottle to encourage drinking more fluids (Note: If your loved one has heart disease, adrenal or thyroid disease, kidney or liver disease, they might need to drink less. Consult with their doctor.)

6) Later Stage Cognitive Impairment:

gift ideas for the elderly

People with later stage cognitive impairment often benefit from gift ideas for the elderly that stimulate their senses.

  • Aromatherapy (vanilla is often calming) or scented lotions
  • Different types of lights such as a lava lamp
  • Fluffy bathrobe
  • Soft blanket
  • Nature videos or other videos that give both visual and sound stimulation
  • Often seniors in nursing homes still enjoy getting their hair done. This is a common service in most nursing homes.

If your loved one has late stage cognitive impairment and is agitated or upset, the following gift ideas for the elderly can sometimes help:

  • A weighted blanket or apron: this should be monitored by a health care provider
  • A stuffed animal or baby doll: often this gives your loved one a way to show love or get comforted and is not meant to treat them like a child
  • Something to occupy their hands: a stress ball, rubix cube, something to fiddle with
  • Chew toys: this seems odd but sometimes people will chew on their clothes, blankets or pillows. There are sensory toys that are designed for children and adults to chew on and can prevent sores from excessive chewing or sucking.


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