Tip Sheet

Holiday Gift Giving

We all know the flow of good feeling that comes with gift-giving – and this impulse doesn’t change with age. Just ask the nursing home residents and home health care clients who were part of our recent study. Four-fifths of these older adults told us that giving gifts is one of their top preferences (see PELI Tip Sheet: Top Preferences Across LTSS Settings).

Victoria Crumbie, MS, CTRS, Director of Recreation at Abramson Center for Senior Care, and Sarah Humes, MS, CTRS, Humes Consulting, shared their go-to activities for the holidays. All are low-cost, easy to put into action and can be adjusted to match residents’ interests and abilities. Most can be carried out with a group or on a one-to-one basis for those needing more hands-on help or encouragement.

Fun & Easy Ideas for Holiday Gift Giving


  • Residents create holiday cards they can send to loved ones, or donate to other residents who can send them onto family or friends.
  • With holiday stationery, residents write or dictate a note to family and friends. Or, like a pen pal, they send a holiday note to student groups (or others) who visit the community for intergenerational events. This is a great option for residents without family or friends, yet who want to reach out to others.


Seasonal group projects can provide joyful experiences that draw on residents’ lifelong skills and traditions, while building community. Examples are:

  • A group of residents gather to bake cookies and present them together to the care team on the household or unit. This is an excellent alternative for communities that do not permit staff to receive individual gifts.
  • Does your community have a knitting club? If so, consider purchasing or seeking donated supplies so the group can create hats, scarves or lap blankets for a chosen cause, such as a children’s home or hospital oncology unit.
  • Create gift baskets for a charitable group serving children and families at the holidays. Find out what the organization needs most. Request contributions and then involve residents in assembling the donated items into gift baskets.

For strategies to adapt group activities and encourage participation by residents of varying abilities, see PELI Tip Sheet: Integrating Preferences Into Care Plans.


  • Residents may enjoy sharing the gift of reading with pre-school and elementary school kids. Of course, residents can read with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but also consider forming a partnership with a nearby school. With school age children, older adults and students can take turns reading to each other for true intergenerational sharing.


  • Many communities organize great food drives for local pantries, but recently a provider suggested a new twist on the idea. During bingo games, consider offering residents the chance to keep their winnings or donate them to a food drive. In this scenario, a bingo winner could either accept 25 cents in cash or hold off and a can of food would be added to the community donation bin. Staff can purchase canned food ahead of time so that, when the game ends, residents can see how much they will contribute to a worthy cause.


  • Shopping trips are a mainstay of the season, whether residents take part independently or go with a group.
  • When residents are unable to travel, the community might bring a mobile store on site. Another alternative is toask family members to recommend store catalogs for the resident to peruse and select gifts for loved ones. Kitchen supply and toy store catalogs are two examples.
  • For those who are unable to shop and need one-on-one support, care team members or volunteers might talk with residents about gifts they would like to give, or reminisce about times past when they gave gifts.


For residents of any ability, and particularly for those with the greatest need for support, everyday interactions provide surprising and precious opportunities to receive and express gratitude for gifts. It is a gift when a resident smiles at a caregiver, makes eye contact or holds his or her hand. When this happens, try to catch the moment and say something like, “It’s so nice to have you smile at me, what a gift!” Perhaps this kind of exchange is the easiest and loveliest gift of all.


Does your organization have a special program or activity that helps honor the preference for gift giving? If so, we would love to hear about it. Your community’s efforts to honor preferences could be highlighted in one of our monthly newsletters!  Contact us: PELI-Can@MiamiOH.edu or 513-529-3605

About the Series

This is one in a series of Tip Sheets on using the Preferences for Everyday Living Inventory (PELI) to improve person-centered care. Topics include: How to Get Started, Interview Tips, Working with Proxies, Helping Staff Engage, Integrating Preferences into Care Plans and more. View our full series of Tip Sheets.

Have questions or comments? Please e-mail us at PELI-Can@miamioh.edu or call our helpline at 513-529-3605.

Victoria Crumbie, MS, CTRS, Sarah Humes, MS, CTRS, Katherine Abbott, Ph.D. & Kimberly Van Haitsma, Ph.D. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at https://preferencebasedliving.com/. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/4.0/.