6 Things to know before Buying Gifts for Old People

The world is getting old and this is inescapable, it is pervasive, enduring and it has profound implications according to a U.N. report. An article in the National Institute on Aging shows that there were about 524 million people aged 65 or older in 2010, expected to reach 1.5 billion by 2050.

Not only are the we going to have more than 50 shades of grey, they will also exert a great pressure on government policies, our natural resources, our consuming patterns and our lifestyles. And owing to their changing physiological abilities, their changing preferences and habits, very soon we will be seeing a lot of restaurants movie houses, hotels, vacation resorts, transportation, personal gadgets, etc., intended solely for the elderly.

Even now manufacturers of goods and services are realigning their sights to cater to this increasing market. You think it’s funny? Samsun does not think so when it marketed a smartphone specifically for the elderly. It has extra large display equipped with a 1-touch Medical Alert app in case of emergency.

So if you are planning to buy a gift for your elderly parents, grandma or grandpa, or for a relative celebrating his 100th birthday, it is necessary to know these surprising buying and consuming habits of seniors.

1. Don’t be Cheap

Contrary to popular belief, elderly people, generally, are not poor. They are not price-conscious, they don’t buy generics or from discounts stores; they don’t go for special economic packages, too. Many of them actually seek out expensive items. Two years ago, I was happy to be gifted by my son-in-law with a beautiful belt. Great was my dismay, therefore, when just after a short use, it cracked in two places. What I thought was genuine leather was nothing but a beautifully laminated cardboard with a buckle.

My self-worth was given a knock-out punch; it made me feel so small.

2. Don’t assume to know what they want:

During my birthday, a year ago, my son-in-law, again, gave me a tablet as a gift. I am basically a “hands free” guy and I want my things to snugly fit my palms. Besides I am an elderly – forgetful, clumsy and slow.

“What the hell do I need a cumbersome, heavy and easily misplaced tablet for?” was a question I kept asking myself.

Needless to say, I never got to use it.

If possible, ask what they want for a gift. They will not tell you upfront what they want, but you can ask them in a less-direct way.

To give you a feel of what elderly people want, according to research they prefer services over goods, i.e., home security, car maintenance and repair, lawn care, or somebody to talk to.

Don’t assume they want the latest iPhone, or Nike sneakers when what they crave for a is an afternoon riding the wildest roller coaster in town.

3. Make it memorable:

A survey shows that most elderly people prefer attending church services, a good dinner and a good book, rather than go fishing, watching ball games or doing crossword puzzles. Unless they want to watch the Super Bowl, a dinner would be better capped by a visit to a bookstore where the can browse through the latest best sellers.

Seniors are an emotional lot and they want something to show off or talk about with friends. You also need to buy the tools that make their life easier and safer. For example a good shower chair.

4. Be authentic:

Though elderly people are not “brand loyal,” they prefer manufacturer’s brands over “look-a-likes,” and they often buy just to have “the feel,” or because it is recommended by friends.

These don’t apply to women, however.

To play it safe, bring her along so she can make her own choice. Do prepare to spend hours on end as women want something unique, something not worn or used by a friend or a neighbor. They don’t want to be taken as copycats.

Prepare your wallet, too, as elderly people are not price conscious.

5. User-friendly:

If buying perishable food items, they must not contain anything to exacerbate a health condition and packed in sizes they cannot consume in a day or two.

If gadgets, it must come with instruction booklets with large fonts to make reading easy and understandable; simple for even a child to use (children these days, however, are more techno savvy than most adults).

Sporting equipments are fairly easy to handle for people, even for seniors. Nevertheless, it is prudent to make sure they come in bright colors to catch their attention, will not cause injuries or accidents, and can easily be stowed and maintained.

If you want to gift them with clothes, they should be comfortable, easy to put on or take off, and laundry-free. Remove anything that can snag and make them trip.

Gifting them with a “service,” may be a little tricky and requires more thorough assessment of the provider’s capabilities, scope of work, frequency of service, contact address, track record, billing schedules and their policies on temporary replacements. You don’t want a stranger to pop up in your elderly parents’ home.

6. Satisfies the ego:

A survey by Forbes shows that elderly people want to seek approval from friends and see branded items as a way of obtaining that approval. They think expensive items as a status symbol.

And don’t ever try to pull a fast one because they know. They spend a lot of time in front of the TV, and listening to radio programs. They probably know more than you on what’s currently “hot.”

Gift-giving is never easy – even for kids who are easy to please. It is very stressful when the recipient is an adult who has already formed internal biases concerning gift-giving and receiving.

Giving a gift to elderly people is even more. It requires a conscious effort of determining what is important and meaningful to him; what satisfies his needs, physical or emotional.

In a way, giving a gift to an elderly is a litmus test of your sincerity and thoughtfulness in giving the gift.

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