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No More Stuff: 10 Holiday Gifts for Seniors



No More Stuff: 10 Holiday Gifts for Seniors

How often have you struggled to pick holiday gifts for seniors who insist that they have everything? When they say they don't need anything, they really mean it. Really, who needs more candle holders, snow globes, or decorative objects?
Consider some holiday presents that entail no objects at all.
Here are some ideas that can help seniors improve their homes (and gain short- and long-term benefits), enjoy an outing, or indulge in a hobby.

1. Tame the clutter: A professional organizer can help seniors who are hoarders (or borderline hoarders) or those with rooms that teem with stuff. Professional organizers work side-by-side with homeowners first to purge. Then they organize the remaining things, whether those are clothes, photographs, hobby supplies, and so forth. The short-term benefit is a cleaner, more comfortable environment where things are easy to find. The long-term benefit is a tidier house that is better prepared for an eventual sale. It also makes packing for a future move less arduous.
·        National Association of Professional Organizers, www.napo.net
·        Professional Organizers In Canada, www.organizersincanada.com
2. Easy blooms: Though gardening is a great past time and offers a host of benefits to seniors, certain aspects of maintaining those flowery beds can get arduous. Offer to switch out sections of a garden from high-maintenance to low-maintenance flowers or plants, such as ground cover or perennials. Future homebuyers just may appreciate a beautiful garden that requires minimal work.
And if your parents still love gardening but find bending and stretching difficult, consider building some elevated garden beds that let them maintain plants with less physical exertion. Such beds even can be designed for wheelchair accessibility. 
·        Thrive, a U.K.-based charity, offers some useful gardening tips for those with physical limitations. See http://carryongardening.org.uk/top-tips-for-disabled-gardeners.aspx.
·        Sunset magazine features step-by-step instructions on building a raised bed. See www.sunset.com/garden/backyard-projects/ultimate-raised-bed-how-to-00400000011938/page10.html.
3. Year-round gourmet: The most obvious 12-month gift is a magazine subscription, but other year-round subscriptions can feed people's foodie passions. That could be a craft beer-of-the-month club, regular deliveries of fancy coffee, or a CSA (community-supported agriculture) membership in which gift recipients receive boxes of seasonal produce directly from farmers.
·        CSAs: Local Harvest (www.localharvest.org), Green People (www.greenpeople.org/csa.htm), Ontario CSA Directory (http://csafarms.ca/index.html)
·         Gifts-of-the-month: Clubs Galore (www.clubsgalore.com/index.htm) and Flying Noodle (www.flyingnoodle.com/index.html)
4. Pet Causes: Is your loved one an activist, an animal lover, or an ardent environmentalist? Consider a donation in his or her honor to a favorite charity or cause. Bluebell Giving (http://bluebellgiving.com) simplifies the process and ensures that your money goes to recipients' pet cause. You pick the denomination and order a gift card. The recipient goes online, chooses a cause, and types in the gift card's code. Then the money goes to the chosen organization. Bluebell features a huge range of categories, including animals, youth development, medical research, and international development. 
5. Experiential gifts: Experiential giftsserve multiple purposes, including getting seniors out of the house, providing stimulation, and broadening social circles. Among those gifts could be museum and nature center memberships, art classes, and concert ticket subscriptions. If possible, get memberships and concert tickets that let a friend or neighbor tag along on outings.
 6. A dash of dazzle: Dated light and plumbing fixtures, dull wall colors, and faded window coverings can dampen homeowners' spirits and make a house dreary. Walk through your relative's house and pick out upgrades that can be accomplished fairly easily. Then make it a fun day with that aunt or parent and shop for new faucets, chandeliers, or accent colors. The house becomes cheerier and the fresher appearance can only help when it's time to refinance or sell.
7. Banish the energy hogs: Energy costs continue to spike and that can be especially painful for seniors living on fixed incomes. Help your family members save energy costs by making simple fixes. 
For instance, phantom power is the energy wasted by chargers, TVs, microwaves, and other household equipment that continue sucking electricity even when they're in the off position. Plug the devices into a power strip and your loved one can turn them all off with a single click.
Also replace incandescent bulbs with energy efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). According to the U.S. Department of Energy, upgrading 15 inefficient incandescent light bulbs could bring savings of approximately $50 per year.And a properly used programmable thermostat can slash energy costs by up to $180 per year, according to Energy Star.
Sit down with your relatives to discuss how changes in habits, such as turning off lights, learning to use a programmable thermostat, and not using a computer screensaver during inactive times on the computer, can save energy and money.
8. Green house: A professional energy audit can help you determine the biggest energy efficiency problems in a house and the upgrades that will provide the greatest savings.
Some of the suggested projects often are DIY jobs that you could do with a team of siblings and other relatives. Bring a nice lunch, share it with your loved ones, and make it a DIY project weekend.
The upgrades could keep your loved ones more comfortable, reduce their energy bills, and make the house more appealing to future homeowners.
Just one common project entails sealing and insulating ducts. Such a project can make heating and cooling more efficient and improve indoor air quality. For more on duct sealing, see www.energystar.gov/ia/products/heat_cool/ducts/DuctSealingBrochure04.pdf
Energy Star also says that homeowners typically spend between $400 and $600 annually on water heating. Several simple fixes, including setting the temperature to 120 degrees, have the potential to slash that bill in half.
Also consider winterizing projects, such as weather-stripping windows and doors. For nine tips, see, www.proudgreenhome.com/article/182939/9-Home-winterization-projects-to-do-right-now?rc_id=523.
·        Danny Lipford: The home improvement expert's site features green home strategies (www.dannylipford.com/category/diy-home-improvement/green-home/?post_type=video) and instructional videos ((www.dannylipford.com/category/diy-home-improvement/diy-projects/?post_type=video) on an array of home improvement projects.
·        Government sites: Energy Star (www.energysavers.gov), Natural Resources Canada (www.oee.nrcan.gc.ca/residential/personal/home-improvement.cfm) and U.S. Department of Energy(www.energysavers.gov/your_home/energy_audits/index.cfm/mytopic=11160).
9. Party time: Consider hiring a personal chef to cook a special lunch or dinner for your loved ones and their friends. It allows your parents or relatives to entertain without the hassles. Personal chefs will not only shop and cook up favorite meals, but some will set the table and use the household's fancy china and serving pieces for the party. They'll clean up too.
·        American Personal & Private Chef Association, www.personalchefsearch.com
·        Canadian Personal Chef Association, www.cook4me.ca
·        United States Personal Chef Association, www.Hireachef.com
10. Charity starts near home: If you don't have elderly relatives, you still can bring holiday cheer to a senior. One way is by teaming up with some neighbors and offering yourselves up for a day of home repairs or yard work for a frail or low-income senior living nearby. Of course, there's no shortage of organizations seeking holiday donations for needy seniors. Search community boards and Websites to choose a charity where you can make an impact at the local level.

By Elyse Umlauf-Garneau

Real Estate Matters: News & Issues for the Mature Market
Providential Properties LLC
633 Dayton Avenue Suite #8
Saint Paul, MN 55104
Jim Sipprell Senior Real Estate Specialist®