By Carrie Esselman, Therapeutic Recreational Specialist at Valley VNA

Whether an older person still lives at home or she has moved into an apartment or assisted living complex, chances are she wants more joy and not more stuff. If you are planning your holiday gift giving, consider these presents for your friend or family member. At Valley VNA, we know from experience they will bring smiles, help start conversations, and boost our clients’ and residents’ engagement with their friends and the world.

  • A pretty bulletin board with large easy-to-use pushpins. Pre-decorate the bulletin board with updated photos. Add captions if they will help with names or specific events. (Friends and staff will be able to ask about the photos if they have a prompt.) If you are ready to splurge, include an instant camera. It’s not just a Polaroid anymore. Other manufacturers make similar styles. Your next gifting opportunity? Send more instant film!
  • Flower arrangements and houseplants are a beautiful gesture, but they can be short-lived. Terrariums are self-contained mini eco-systems, so they need much less attention when it comes to watering. Plus, how many of us have at one time imagined living in a miniature forest? Terrariums are a joy for the imagination and can offer a soothing variety of natural colors and textures. Florists or garden stores offer nice quality choices.
  • Speaking of miniature forests, why not create a fairy garden with your grandma? Fairy gardens are magical miniature landscapes that integrate dish gardens with miniscule furniture, fairy figurines, and houses. Grandma will enjoy making her garden with you and she’ll be able to rearrange it whenever the spirit moves her. Young children love to play with them when they visit, too. The VNA Life Enrichment team set up five fairy gardens this summer in the outdoor courtyard of our assisted living wing. We’d be happy to help set up and maintain a fairy garden you may give as a gift.
  • Does your friend enjoy knitting? Crocheting? Tying flies? It can be very hard to get out to the store to get supplies for a hobby, so why not restock his or her shelves? A beautiful skein of yarn may even result in a beautiful scarf for you.
  • Music is a gateway to memories, and a very thoughtful gift is an iPod or other MP3 player preloaded with your loved one’s personalized song collection. Consider a mix of meaningful hymns, folk songs (especially in his or her mother tongue if it’s different than English), popular dance tunes from his or her era, TV show theme songs, and patriotic marches. We’ve found these soft headphones work well for our residents.
  • Books! Large print books, magazine subscriptions, or devotionals will be enjoyed and shared with friends. Books on tape are available online or at the library. Consider a personal bookmobile service where you visit every couple of weeks to switch out reading and listening materials. Your visits will have built in-conversation topics: What have you read? What would you like to try next? If you go the digital route, you can download a fresh book from a service like while you visit.
  • Pamper your special person. Valley VNA offers salon/barber services and foot care clinics on site. Each service requires a relatively small out-of-pocket payment. If you’d like to put some money on account for your loved one, we’ll be sure to apply it to these special services.

There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned visit to lift the spirits of an elderly person—and our staff! We hope you’ll visit for the holidays and come back often. To learn more about scheduled life enrichment programs at Valley VNA, or to volunteer to share your talents and assist in the life enrichment department, please call (920) 727-5555.