“Mum, what do you want for your birthday?” These words are often voiced by one’s family after they have spent a considerable amount of time trying to come up with a unique, thoughtful idea but with no success. What do you give a senior for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and other gift giving occasions? At this stage in life, we usually have every gadget and item we possibly need. Well, I’m here to help you with this dilemma. Simply put, for those of us who are still living in our own homes, we need and would love help, physical help doing the odd jobs around the house that we can no longer complete on our own. I’m not talking about large projects where outside experts can be hired but for those little, every day chores like hanging pictures, changing light bulbs, etc. that require attention.


The need for this extra assistance is starting to really hit home for Chuck and I. Chuck has always been extremely handy when it comes to doing renovations, repairs and maintenance around our place but the time has come when his patience, strength and desire are no longer there to even consider tackling these jobs. Furthermore, one has to consider the safety aspect of doing the task. Who needs someone in their mid-70s, climbing a ladder to replace a missing shingle or whatever. It isn’t easy for seniors, especially if you have always been very independent and self-sufficient, to ask for help, but here it is, I’ve said it, “We need help.”


Now I realize there has to be some guide lines set up between the helper and the helped. Flash backs of my dad run through my mind. Dad would always phone my sister at her place of employment and ask her, “What are you doing after work today?” It didn’t take Betty long to figure out the correct response to that question. You see, dad had decided ten minutes before he made the call that a chore, say an outside bench in the garden should be painted, and he thought she could do that on her way home from work. In Dad’s eyes, if you saw a job that needed attention, get on it right away and get it done. It was amazing, according to Betty, how busy she was with no free time until the weekends. Now I am starting to understand Dad’s impatience. I too see jobs that I would like done and in the past I did them immediately but that option is no longer available to me. It is the sheer frustration of needing to depend on others that makes us impatience but I truly try to overcome this trait. Steven, who has his father’s talent of being quite handy, often drops by and his opening words to me are. “Mum. I can’t stay long. I’m just here for a few minutes”. Translation. Don’t whip out that “Steven to do list” today. Steven, like Betty before him, is learning how to handle seniors.


Because she lived in the same town, Betty was always at Dad’s beck and call. My brothers and I lived two hours away so the little every day chores fell squarely on her shoulders. One example comes immediately to mind. Dad loved to record his favourite program, Coronation Street but he would always screw up the remote whenever he switched back from VCR to TV. An emergency call would be sent out to Betty to resolve this major catastrophe and fix it now because he didn’t want to miss his show. I’m sure there were many times that Betty wished he would just lose the damn remote.


For the larger projects, Betty came up with a great plan. Every spring, around Dad’s birthday, she organized a clean-up/fix-up weekend. She would draw up a list of all the jobs that needed done such as cleaning eavestroughs, levelling patio stones, doing outside painting, planting and weeding gardens, repairing steps, putting out lawn furniture, trimming trees and bushes, etc. Our family was made up of eight adults plus a few of our kids were old enough at the time to pitch in. Everyone was given a job based on their skills and the weekend flew by. For two days, Dad sat and watched his family work, laugh and get all the jobs done that he could possibly imagine needed completed. This gave Betty a break for at least a couple of days before Dad’s next call.


Family work bees, because they happen just once or twice a year, only partially help the older folk. What about the little tasks that pop up on a weekly basis and then accumulate as there is no one to do them? Are there any motivated teenagers in the neighbourhood who would love to make some extra money doing these odd jobs? What about hiring some entrepreneurial young retiree who now has the time, the experience and the knowledge of fixing things around the house. Can you hire them? These would all be amazing gifts for both you and your parents. Jobs that could end up being your responsibility are now being taken care of by others and the seniors are happy because things are getting done. A win, win situation for everyone. Other ideas for Father’s Day could be to buy him a book and then put up his hammock which he can no longer set up himself or fix and paint the railing on the porch, etc. For Mum, a perfect Mother’s Day gift would be to buy her annual flowers and then plant them.


But perhaps the most precious gift is the ‘visit’ gift. Take the time, especially the grandkids, to see the seniors in your life. Visit with them. Tell them about your hopes and dreams and listen to their advice, views, opinions and stories. Have a good old chat with them and be an active part of their lives. What a wonderful gift even the youngest member of your family can give to the older generation.


So back to my original question. What do you give a senior for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and other gift giving occasions? Use your imagination. The list is endless.