Gift Ideas for Parents: Alternative Gifts to Give Your Parents Great Holiday Presence

When it comes to gift ideas for parents, finding the right holiday presents can get harder as the years go by—so many of our best ideas have already been implemented. Also, as our formerly more-active parent(s) age, it can be challenging to come up with the perfect age- and energy-appropriate gift.

If you’re thinking that there’s nothing new to give the people who’ve known us all our lives, then it’s time to think about this challenge a bit differently. Not all gifts come wrapped.

Before you say that your schedule won’t accommodate it, or that you live too far away, see what options are available for celebrating The 12 Days of Presence—both in person and from a distance.

In-Person Gift Options

When you and your parent(s) live in the same town—or at least close by—the best gifts are those you deliver in person.

If your parent(s) still live at home…

1. Help with the heavy lifting that makes the holiday come: cooking, decorating, cleaning…. When we were kids, it was fun to watch mom and dad do the work. This year, pitch in.

2. Host a work-at-home day, by offering to help make simple repairs, rearrange cabinets, or address accessibility issues like getting that shower bench or installing some grab bars.

If your parent(s) live in a senior community…

3. Join them for Bingo or for a meal in the dining room. Who doesn’t like to show off their attractive kids to their new friends? It also reminds the management that your folks have family members they love. 

4. Become a professional organizer, by creating systems to keep on top of medications or financial papers. A widow/er may appreciate help with managing their clothes or sorting family photos.

If a parent no longer drives…

5. Give your parent(s) “wheels” again, by taking them out to share a favorite meal or to a store they rarely get to visit now. Plus, it can be fun to spend an afternoon touring the old neighborhood.

6. Stock up on regular supplies, such as laundry detergent and personal needs. You’ll be extending their holiday cheer by giving them one less thing to worry about in January and February.

Longer-Distance Gift Options

Thirty years of long-distance daughtering has taught me a thing or two about how to be genuinely present from far away, to supplement my regular in-person visits, which are less frequent by necessity.

Wherever your parent(s) live…

7. “I just wanted to hear your voice.” When you can’t be there in person, the phone is your best friend. Some parent(s) want to schedule a regular phone/video chat; others will prefer to keep things flexible.

8. Give a gift card for getting together. Don’t just think of gift cards for physical gifts; choose a gift card that comes with an activity attached, like hosting a dinner out with friends.

9. Support a new hobby. If your parent(s) are getting involved in new—or revisiting some cherished old—activities, make things more fun by offering a new swimsuit for water aerobics or canvases for art class.

10. Create a photo book. Get those great family pics off of your phone and out where they can be enjoyed and shared. If a parent’s not on Facebook, capture photos they’d otherwise miss.

If a parent no longer drives…

11. Pre-arrange a series of rides to church, the barber, or former regular haunts like a favorite breakfast place. It’s actually much harder than you think for a parent to request and get regular rides.

12. Set up their holiday cards, all year round. My widower dad enjoyed sending holiday cards, once he had me to send him everything he needed: nice cards with their envelopes pre-return addressed and stamped, so that all he had to do was address and sign. This gift can save them a lot of running around if you add cards needed throughout the year—get well, birthday, sympathy, blank….

Then, if all else fails and you still need gift ideas for parents, simply revert to the popular four-gift challenge that’s recommended for children, yet appropriate for all ages: “Something they want, Something they need, Something to wear, Something to read.”

Enjoy this article? Leave a comment with your gift ideas below or share this article on social!

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Tagged with: gift ideas for older parents, gifts for elderly parents, gifts ideas for seniors parents

12 thoughts on “Gift Ideas for Parents: Alternative Gifts to Give Your Parents Great Holiday Presence

  1. Carol P
    December 5, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    Great suggestions! Enjoyable to read. Being a senior, these ideas are right on target!

  2. Wendy D.
    December 5, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    Wonderful advice! I especially like the idea of a present of rides.

  3. Lori
    December 5, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    Great ideas! I used to leave food that I’d cooked, frozen in individual portions, so my dad could pull out the cooking he enjoyed for a treat!

  4. Daphne Foreman
    December 5, 2016 at 6:48 pm

    Lori, That’s a great addition! Thank you.

    Wendy, For whatever reason, my dad had the hardest time asking for a ride–even when he had a list of people happy to give them.

    Carol, Appreciate the validation!

  5. Jane and Roland Perdue
    December 6, 2016 at 10:57 am

    Now that we qualify “aging parents,” we recognize the practicality of your suggestions. Our family decided years ago for all the adults to exchange honor gifts at Christmas. Those gifts can be uniquely suited to the interest of the receiver because there are so many charitable organizations. This works well for us, but adding helpful errands, etc. would be icing on the cake!

    Thank you!

  6. Bernice
    December 6, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    These are wonderful suggestions! Very helpful! Thank you!!!

  7. Daphne Foreman
    December 6, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    Thank you, Bernice!

    And, yes, Jane and Roland, honor gifts are terrific choices, as they spread the good around. (I have to agree that help with necessary chores is a great gift to receive at any age.)

  8. Dr. DON Mc.
    December 8, 2016 at 11:00 am

    DAPHNE, creative, innovative suggestions, yet entirely practical and readily accomplished.

    Thank you for the reminders of what a difference gestures that we might think are small or seem inconsequential really can make.

  9. Jane Perdue
    December 17, 2016 at 4:17 am

    Daphne has offered very practical and loving suggestions for gift-giving. I would suggest that they are applicable to any age. Young friends could also give gifts of time and talent to each other, such as baby-sitting, a delivered dinner or special dessert, a day of shared housekeeping and on and on…

    Thank you, Daphne, for sharing your gift of writing!

  10. Daphne Foreman
    December 17, 2016 at 11:06 am

    Thank you, Jane and Don. You’re absolutely right that there’s no age limit on these. If we keep looking, there are gifts to give all around us.

  11. Susan
    December 13, 2017 at 10:12 am

    I did most of these… wish I had heard of the others. Wish I still had the privilege of adding the new ones !

  12. Evelyn Elias
    December 16, 2020 at 4:58 am

    Hmm, my teacher gave us an extension on our hw project and sited the “12 days of presence.” I guess I’m chill with it XD.

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