Healthy Lifestyle

Holiday Gift Ideas for Older Adults To Promote Physical, Cognitive and Social Well-Being

Published: Dec. 9, 2022

When it comes to the holidays, it can be daunting to think about all the people who you think you should purchase gifts for. Some people are easy to shop for because they’re easily pleased or you know what they like. Others might be more difficult.

When shopping for older adults, consider gifts that promote physical, cognitive and social well-being – which are pillars of brain health and important to focus on as we age.


Gifts Promoting Safety and Physical Well-being

Smartwatch or fitness tracker: Smartwatches can serve multiple functions, including specific purposes related to safety. For example, some styles of the Apple Watch have fall detection and allow emergency calls. These devices allow loved ones to get in touch even if a phone is misplaced. They can also provide automated reminders, such as when to leave for an appointment or take medications. Smartwatches or similar fitness trackers also offer a variety of health metrics like heart rate, blood oxygen level and steps taken.

Smart home technology: A video doorbell or similar system can be helpful from a physical standpoint as well. Many systems allow you to see whether a delivery, solicitor, stranger or someone you know is at the door. Some systems also offer the ability to communicate through an intercom if you’re unable to physically answer the door.

A smart hub, like an Amazon Echo or Google Assistant that’s voice activated, can also help promote safety and autonomy, making it easier for loved ones to complete tasks. The device can remind them of an event, call someone, play music, follow a recipe or retrieve information.

Shoes: If you’re looking for a gift that promotes physical safety and well-being but doesn’t involve technology, a pair of sneakers with good grip will allow for balance and mobility. Falls are a leading cause of brain injury in older adults, and having a good pair of shoes is one way to help prevent possible injuries.


Gifts Promoting Cognitive Well-being

Books, puzzles or crafting materials: Keeping your mind active is key to preserving your brain health. Think of activities that the older adult in your life loves to do. What keeps their mind active? Is it reading, crafting or completing jigsaw puzzles, word searches or crossword puzzles? You could purchase new books for an avid reader, puzzles for a brain-teaser fan or materials and templates for craft enthusiasts.

Do they already have plenty of those items? Consider gifts that would help them engage in their hobby more easily, such as a reading light, a sewing materials organizer or an armrest organizer to keep necessities close to them while sitting in their favorite chair.


Continuing education classes or workshops: Continuing to learn new skills or information is another key part of brain health. Is there a skill that your loved one has always wanted to explore? If so, consider a class or workshop offered at a local store or college. Some classes are also available online and don’t require travel.


Gifts Promoting Social Well-being

Communication apps or devices tailored for them: Consider technology that can help them keep in touch with family and friends. This could include helping set up accounts to allow video calls with grandchildren and other family members, or gifting technology specifically designed for older adults, such as tablets with limited features or apps and large-print displays.

Photo gifts: Framed photos or customized photo gifts like a coffee mug, ornament or calendar can help loved ones cherish special moments even when they’re not sharing the same space. Electronic picture frames also allow individuals to view multiple photos in a slideshow format and can be updated after different life events.

Experiences: Consider gifting experiences rather than material gifts. Research shows that receiving thoughtful experience gifts can be more appreciated than some material gifts and help enhance relationships. Consider gifting shared experiences, like tickets to a craft fair, sporting event or tasting event, or an invitation to a nice dinner.  

From a brain health and emotional well-being standpoint, it’s important to remain socially engaged as we age through social activities and nurturing our social networks.


Don’t Stress

This time of year, finding gifts for everyone on your list can cause stress or anxiety. But it doesn’t have to. The above items are merely helpful suggestions for older adults, but don’t forget to think about their day-to-day lives or to even ask them what they’d enjoy. Their wish list might just surprise you!

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About the Author

Neuropsychologist Dr. Lindy Fields works with patients who are experiencing cognitive concerns for reasons such as aging, mild cognitive impairment, dementia, brain injury and concussion.

“The thing I enjoy most about being a neuropsychologist is that I get to work with people every day, and I get to help them better understand their brain and abilities,” she said. 

Dr. Fields sees patients at the Geriatric Assessment Clinic

See more articles from Lindy Fields, PhD
Lindy Fields, PhD