Gift Ideas for 89 Year Old Grandmother

mdasayOctober 17, 2008

I am not sure where to post this type of message, but I know this forum gets a lot of traffic...

My grandmother is turning 89 years old shortly, and I am stumped as to what I should do for her birthday.

My grandfather died last Christmas, and she moved into assisted living. She got rid of most of her personal belongings (furniture, etc)and really doesn't have a lot of space.

What should I get the woman who admittedly says she doesn't need anything but to die???? Your great ideas are welcome.

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The gift of you. Seriously, if you're nearby and can spend time with her, that's probably what she'd want above all else. Can you take her out for lunch? Or take lunch to her home, and enjoy sharing it with her? Just sitting and visiting/reminiscing is a joy to most elderly people that I know. Of course, if you live too far to visit her in person, then a sweet card (preferably a letter) and a chat via phone would undoubtedly make her day.

Grandparents are such a blessing! Mine are in their 90s, and I treasure them.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 4:28PM
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I find the best gifts for moms/grandmothers who "have everything" is memories.
Could you make a collage poster of pictures with family members? Maybe a scrapbook motif with sentimental themes?
I gave my mom a surprise 65th birthday party, and what she admired most was a framed poster with pics of family through the years imposed on a map of her native village from Greece.

How bout those digital picture frames that can be found affordable everywhere? You could set it up with all the pics so she just plugs it in and enjoys the slideshow. Later, you could just send/give her an updated memory card to pop in and enjoy.
Hope my suggestions help.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 4:30PM
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Freeelove, that's an excellent suggestion about the scrapbook! I had forgotten that that's what we did for my Granddad when he turned 80-something. Being the eldest grandchild, I spearheaded the effort, and had everyone in the family write down memories which I then incorporated into a scrapbook. It was a number of years ago that he received this for his birthday, but he still keeps it sitting next to his favorite chair and looks at it almost daily. He still mentions it to me when we talk on the phone too -- telling me how much it means to him!

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 4:46PM
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The memory book/digital frame is a great idea, but if she's like my MIL, she might not even have room on a tabletop for another frame. We had to stop sending pictures b/c she had no room for it. What my 90-yr old godmother likes best is having her hair done - it's her one indulgence. She can't go to a salon, so she has someone come to her house. If your grandma can get out, you could take her for a "spa day", do lunch, get your hair done, whatever. If you think she'd like that. If you live too far away, and there's someone who could take her, or someone who could come in, you could send a gift certificate.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 4:48PM
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I agree with auntjen--the gift of time and you. Take her to lunch or to your home for a luncheon, if possible. Invite some of the relatives that are her sisters or sister-in-laws, etc. Perhaps have everyone bring a favorite, old family photograph to share and reminisce about the good old days. If you live a distance away, choose the same day to call on a weekly basis. This will give her something to look forward to and brag about around the dinner table with her friends in the dining room.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 4:49PM
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a basket of goodies, lots of candy, fruit, nuts, etc...and your time.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 4:56PM
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I'd also make her a personalized coupon book with offerings for outings you can take together or errands you can run for her. She may never even use the coupons, but she will definately see you want to spend time with her and will appreciate the time you take to make it for her.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 5:42PM
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Hi Utahman. I think taking your GM out for a day doing something she wants is a nice idea. I like ajsmama's idea to have someone come in to do a manicure/pedicure and facial type thing. It will make her feel good and the results last for some time.

Oh, and did you know that there is a Conversations side to the Home Decorating Forum? Look down at the bottom or near the top and click on, off topic *Conversations* rather than on topic *Discussions*. Lots of people here visit both sides and the Conversations side is lively. Also Check the *Kitchen Table Forum* as this same topic has been recently discussed there and has lots of ideas.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 5:45PM
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I agree about the gift of time. You will never regret the time you spend with older loved ones.

Also, my grandmothers and aunts always loved *nice* hand/body cream, especially ones that smell nice (they loved Bath & Body Works products). Older people often have dry skin, and really enjoy using nice skin products. If you're unsure about whether she has sensitive skin, you can get something that is hypoallergenic.

If she likes to do any kind of word puzzles, you can find the large-print seek-a-word or crossword puzzles books, often at the dollar store. If she likes crossword puzzles, she might also enjoy a crossword puzzle dictionary.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 6:06PM
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Forgot to mention cookies, lots of cookies. A nice afgan
to keep Grandma warm, is a good gift too!

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 6:20PM
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All of the above suggestions are terrific. And nothing beats the gift of time.

Several years ago my sister and I gave our 80-ish mother a computer. Initially, she was not happy at all and wanted nothing to do with it. However, she was up for the challenge of learning something new and now she really enjoys e-mail with her siblings, her children, and her grandchildren... even Instant Messaging sometimes. (I IM with my 89 y/o uncle too!) Last year, we gave her DSL instead of the dial-up she had. Now she can download all of the ridiculous film clips her brother sends her. Not only did the gift keep her in touch with everyone, but it challenged her to learn new skills.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 6:42PM
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My SIL and BIL gave MIL a Ceiva service a few years ago. All the grandkids send photos of the great-grandkids, vacations, just "hello" notes, etc. It's the first thing she checks every morning to see if there are any new pictures up. There's a yearly fee, but if it's a family gift, it could be split up.

I agree, though, with everyone who suggested "time" -- hardest thing to give, but so appreciated.


Here is a link that might be useful: Ceiva website

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 7:48PM
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Both my Nans lived until 90 plus. One in assisted, the other at home. I would get one of those new micro fiber blankets then take it to an embrodiery place & have her name put on it in big letters!! If you can find booties, get those too but make sure they have her name all over!! Things get so lost in that laundry. Please also note that just because she's in assisted, she can be taken out on vacation or even if it's just for dinner!! We used to take Nan out for days at a time!! And we learned so much from the Nan that stayed at home by recording all her stories!!! Born in 1914, just went on from there...priceless!! Depression, Popop doing a year in the IRS jail for running moonshine. hahaha
Enjoy your time with you Nan...we should all be so lucky to live that long!
Best regards;

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 8:02PM
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My mother has been in assisted living for a couple of years now. She's a different kind of person from the ladies described here. Though she's still mentally sharp, emotionally she's not so interested in other people if you know what I mean. We've all given her photo albums and pictures of the children, but she just tosses them in a pile and I doubt she ever looks at them. But she does like to receive gifts of special treats and things she really needs that don't contribute to the clutter that she always has around her.

We take her out to lunch once a week. She doesn't like to be away from "home" for long and doesn't even want to come to our houses, just likes to go to one or two particular casual restaurants near where she lives.

She has a kitchenette but has meals in the dining room so doesn't cook, but she loves snacks. At Costco I buy her the "100 calorie" chips and cookies, which come in a box of many little bags. Way too much packaging, but a big bag would be hard for her to manage and would just go stale. Now Costco has Annie's organic graham bunnies (an alternative to Teddy Grahams) in several flavors plus cheddar bunnies, which she can share with my little grandson when he visits. They come in a box of 30 little bags. I'll take her a bunch of grapes when they're in season, but not other fruit because she's not interested and they have it in the dining room anyway.

I have bought her a pair of Crocs and a pair of the winter Crocs with a washable fleece lining; microfiber booties with the little nonslip dots on the soles; and her very favorite: a Pashmina shawl. She uses it year 'round because she's cold all the time, and she likes that it's a pretty color and so light and thin.

She complained about her uncomfortable twin bed, so I ordered a memory foam mattress topper from Overstock for her. She loves it and always tells me how much she appreciates it.

Maybe because she doesn't feel very good most of the time, my mother is all about her own comfort and her appetites, and her position in the world. She calls the AL staff "the servants." Oh well, that's her, what can you do. I just try to listen to her complaints and figure out from them what she might like.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2008 at 2:49AM
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We have several elderly relatives and we do monthly gifts-plant of the month, fruit of the month, etc. The best received was Dancing Deer's Cookie of Month. They love looking forward to that little special something every month. I got a call from my great Aunt each month she received the cookies. She loved it and we had fun keeping in better touch!

    Bookmark   October 18, 2008 at 7:25AM
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Jen, how about that jar of messages your family made up for your grandparents. Wasn't that you? Can you elaborate?

I agree that a scrapbook contributed to by the people in her life would be great. Send a couple of blank pages to everyone, friends and family, AL staff, medical practitioners she feels close to, friends from the old days, etc., and try to get them to return them in time for the b'day. You could even throw a few squares of decorative paper and some stickers into each mailing to encourage embellishment. If there is a family gathering, you could have a scrapbook station with glue sticks, paper, stickers and markers. Tell folks to bring a photo of themselves to put on a page.

If someone has a small photo printer, you could print out digital pics right there with each of the party attendees with your grandmother. If and when her memory fades, having those photos of her and her loved ones will be a good reminder as well an an emotional boost.

We did this at my DD's bat mitzvah (we rented a photo booth) and people had a great time creating pages. I was amazed at how our guests took to the project. I was thinking I'd have to prod them during the pre-dinner speeches/blessings, but almost half of them had already made a page by then. It is a great memento of the day.

My grandmother watched her weight in an unhealthy way all her life. When she went into a nursing home, I think all she ate for several years was dessert! Taking her treats was like taking candy to a preschooler...she was always delighted. She didn't ever become dangerously overweight and it was nice to see her finally let go and enjoy food.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2008 at 10:58AM
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Both my grandmother (89 and my grandfather 92) live at home and have a number of illnesses. My grandmother is sharp and "with it" while my grandfather has good and bad days.

My sisters/bro and I cover a cleaning lady for the year as a christmas gift. We selected someone we know because she is particularly talkative and social. Not only does she clean their house but she'll sit and have lunch with them. They both adore her. My grandmother is especially glad to know that the house is clean.. including windows, cupboard doors, etc. The woman we use will do anything-- organize cupboards, wash windows, whatever is needed. Grandma can do her own laundry (thanks to an incline chair), light cleaning and dishes.. the cleaning lady does pretty much everything else.

The other big gift was a computer (which was recently upgraded/replaced for her birthday). It's been great for her but she requires a fair amount of assistance. She uses Family Tree Maker, email and surfs the net a bit.

Smaller gifts that she's loved include a lap blanket filled with lavender.. and believe it or not, her all time favorite gift is a $3 lavender stress ball I bought for her when both she and my grandfather were in the hospital. When she is upset or worried, she gives it a squeeze and the scent comforts her. I have replaced it every few months for the last two years. Who knew such a small gift would make her so happy.

Photos and scrapbooks are great ideas but my sisters do that for them through the year already.

One other idea my mom did was to make her a garden surrounding the carport they use as a patio now-- all thngs that required little care and that provide frequent blooms. This was key since neither of my grandparents can do much bending over or kneeling.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2008 at 11:17AM
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When my Mom was about that age we treated her to a massage at a day spa. She loved it. She said she slept like a baby that night.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2008 at 11:23AM
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There is a really fantastic thread over on the "Organizing Your Home" forum about non-cluttery kind of gifts. Some interesting ideas! I'll post the direct link.

Here is a link that might be useful: Gift ideas

    Bookmark   October 18, 2008 at 9:39PM
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If you want a gift of the heart - take her on a car trip...go past the house where she grew up...the school she attended...the home where she & her husband lived...her old church...any place that holds special memories for her.

And to finish it off, take her to eat something especially delicious that you know she enjoys. Good luck and God Bless.


    Bookmark   October 19, 2008 at 12:39AM
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There are loads of wonderful suggestions here, but let me add my $.02 about digital frames. There are digital frames and then there is the CEIVA frame. They are outstanding. We gave a few digital frames last holiday and they were well received but a pain to upload new photos as the year went on. Then in June I was introduced to the Ceiva. It automatically updates via the telephone line on a schedule that you control. It's a great interface, great company etc. I really can't rave enough. They're pricier, but the quality really shows, in both the frame and the crisp image. The guys from Pixar developed it. NO, I don't work for the company, we received one at work and as part of my job, I keep it loaded with new images.
Okay, I'm done raving now! Happy birthday to Granny, it's sad that she is done with living. My Nana felt the same way.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2008 at 7:51PM
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We've maintained a CEIVA for my father-in-law for years, now and he's really hooked on it. It's simple to use, and others family can share photos using it. You can also add text to the images. It's very user friendly - on both ends and on the wallet!!


    Bookmark   October 19, 2008 at 9:20PM
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Went through this with my mother last year.... look over her room and see what she could use to be "nicer".....
ie She may have downsized to the twin bed, so maybe some really nice sheets, a super soft down pillow or a down comforter. Plush towels, washcloths and hand towels.
Perfume, lotion can make her feel and smell nice and my mom still loved the pedicure idea even when she was willing to let most other things go.

Also a wreath for her door!

    Bookmark   October 19, 2008 at 10:04PM
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Didn't get through all the responses so I'm sorry if this is a repeat. My grandma is 103 and still lives alone so we've been through it a number of years. She LOVES for me to give her a basket of goodies. Little gourmet type food items I get at the grocery that she would never buy for herself. Nice individual cocoa mixes, some fancy candies, cookies, crackers, individually wrapped gourmet cheese, that kind of thing. She thinks she's uptown and eats on it for weeks. And even though she still cooks for herself it's good for her to have some fun snacking food!

    Bookmark   October 19, 2008 at 10:21PM
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Jen, how about that jar of messages your family made up for your grandparents. Wasn't that you? Can you elaborate?

That was indeed me! Well, me and the rest of my extended family that is. I asked everyone to write down their favorite memories of time spent with my grandparents and typed up each one, printed them all out and cut the paper into strips that could be folded and placed in a large, lidded glass jar. I tried decorating the jar several different ways, but just couldn't get it to look quite right, so I opted to attach a wooden letter around the lid that's our surname's initial and left it at that. The jar came with instructions to my grandparents to draw out a memory or two each day, and enjoy reminiscing. I also compiled all of the memories into a notebook that they could keep long after the little scraps of paper were removed from the jar, read and tossed away.

I visited my grandparents yesterday, and they told me (again) how much they enjoyed their memory jar throughout the year. :-)

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 11:54AM
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Having worked in an Assisted Living Facility and Retirement Home for many years, I have to agree w/the others who have suggested little treats, Cookies, candies,chocolates(sugar free if necessary). I found that when they have visitors they love to be able to offer them something(wasn't grandma house always the best for that?). Since they no longer have the mobility of going out and getting something for last minute visitors, it makes them feel good to have something on hand.
Also, they love getting mail, so if her vision is still good a subscription to their favorite magazine or better yet her former hometown newspaper(they love reading about what is going on in their hometown).

Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 12:43PM
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My mom is 81 and lives independently, but her sister is 90 and lives in assisted living. So, whenever I give Mom a present, I make sure it's something she can share with everyone in the assisted living space--goodies, etc. I just sent her flowers,and she hauled them over for "everyone to enjoy".

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 1:07PM
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When my grandfather was in assisted living, I tried to visit him once a month (it was a 6 hour round trip). For Christmas, I would give him a calendar for the upcoming year, with my first visit in January marked on it. At each visit, we would plan the day for my next visit and he would write it down.

Over time, other people started writing in their next visits. This was a great help to my aunt, who tried to see Grandpa at least 5 days a week. She could see when someone else was expected, so she could "take a day off." The staff at the facility would use the calendar on days when Grandpa was grumpy and didn't want to get out of bed. "Oh, Melissa is coming this afternoon. Is she your daughter or granddaughter?" Not wanting to be caught in his pajamas, Grandpa would get up and get dressed.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 1:33PM
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Lena M

There is a thread on ideas for consumable gifts over at the Organizing the Home forum.

I'd add the idea of a bird feeder, one that attaches to a glass window with suction cups.

Maybe a book on bird identification - some of them have large print and big photos. Get one that is appropriate for your region.

This book is the coolest -- it plays bird calls!


    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 2:47PM
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