No one can argue that it is often more satisfying to give the perfect gift than to receive one.
But that perfect gift can be elusive, especially when you’re shopping for someone over 50 who seems to have everything and wants nothing. The go-to gifts that thrilled them in the past — the bread machine or pair of roller blades — may not be right for where they are in their lives today. However, just because it can be challenging doesn’t mean there aren’t thoughtful gift ideas that will make them smile.
This guide provides unique ideas for your friends and loved ones over 50 that most people will never think to buy for themselves. Some tap into nostalgia, some cater to their hobbies, some offer new experiences, and some nurture wellness.
With thoughtfulness and creativity, you can find or make a heartfelt gift for the more mature friends and family in your life and enjoy that wonderful sense of giving that comes from brightening someone's day.
4 Gifts That Evoke Memories
Most people aged 50 and beyond have amassed a lot of wonderful memories. Transport your friends and family back in time with a gift that reminds them of their favorite people or moments in their lives.
Custom Photo Books
Everyone shares photos on social media these days. But there is nothing quite like having a book you can hold and look at whenever you wish.
Shuffle through your old photos to find a collection that includes your gift recipient or the places you’ve been together. Or, if the recipient is a grandparent, pull together photos of their grandchildren from infancy until now. If you only have old printed photographs, you can digitize them using a scanner or the camera on your phone. Or use a service that digitizes your print photos, negatives, or slides for you.
Once you’ve selected the photos you want to include, use a digital service like Shutterfly, Snapfish, Mixbook, or Artifact to create a photo book with short narratives or captions that highlight each memory. Prices start as low as $15 for a 20-page book.
A sofa, chair, or bed can always use another throw pillow, especially if it’s sentimental. Several online services can print a cherished family photo or image from a special occasion on a pillow. Pillows can be square or rectangular in sizes ranging from 12” x 12” to 24” x 24” and range from $10 to $40. Different companies offer different qualities of fabric and production quality, so do some research to find the best match for your budget. A quick Internet search will link you to the various services that produce custom pillows.
Sentimental Location Map
If you’re looking for a great gift for a world traveler, consider giving them a push pin world or country map they can pin with the places they’ve lived and traveled to. The map can be printed with the recipient’s name or a custom title. Prices range from $50 for a paper map to over $300 for the highest quality framed maps on canvas. You can find many sources for these maps by doing an online search.
Classic Board Games
Chances are your 50+ friends or family members haven’t saved their original game of Sorry, Monopoly, or Clue. Receiving a favorite childhood board game can bring back happy memories from when electronics played a part in at-home entertainment. A game night with these classics can remind them of carefree weekends playing with siblings or neighborhood friends. It may even inspire them to teach these games to a new generation that may benefit from putting down their digital devices and connecting in person.
Some of the old games are still being sold. Often, you can find original board games at thrift stores or on eBay, making the gift especially nostalgic.
Absolute Experience Gifts
Gifting experiences can be precious for those over 50 who’ve already accumulated all the material objects they desire.
An experience means your recipient gets to create new memories while enjoying quality time with the people they care most about. This may be a gift you participate in or one you plan for them to enjoy with a friend or significant other. Most older adults value any time you are willing to spend with them, so planning something you can do together may be the most meaningful gift you can give.
When you gift an experience, respect your recipients' interests, abilities, and schedules. You might provide an adventure that lets them check something off their bucket list or an outing that motivates them to step out of their comfort zone and enjoy the thrill of anticipating an upcoming adventure.
Going somewhere new for just a night or two is enough to build lasting memories. And the gift doesn’t have to be exorbitant. It can be a booked camping site in a new or favorite destination or reservations at a comfortable motel or cabin in a less traveled area. If their time is flexible, look for travel deals in more exotic locations at off-season times of the year.
Concert or Theater Tickets
Many people over 50 love reliving their pasts at rock concerts. Others might prefer tickets to a symphony or a local repertory theater. If you plan to go with them, include a picnic or meal with the gift, which you can cook, grab from a food truck, or enjoy at a nearby restaurant.
Scenic Railway Tour
Trains used to connect all areas of the country, but today train travel is almost exotic. It harkens back to simpler times and encourages connection. It allows you to see beautiful places in a comfortable, relaxed way. Long rail journeys are conducive to storytelling and bonding with travel companions without distractions.
A scenic train tour can take just a few hours or a few days and ranges in price dramatically. An overnight trip would be a generous gift for someone special. A few of the most spectacular train trips in the U.S. includes:
- Rocky Mountaineer (Canadian Rockies)
- Verde Canyon Railroad (Arizona)
- Alaska Railroad (Alaska)
- Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (Colorado)
- Napa Valley Wine Train (California)
- White Pass Yukon Route (Alaska/Yukon)
Sharing a thrilling new exploit together creates bonding moments that will be treasured for years. If your 50+ gift recipient has an adventurous spirit, consider giving an experience that gets their adrenaline and endorphins pumping. Depending on their skill level and endurance, one of the following adventures will surely be a hit.
- Introductory trapeze class: Let them fly through the air with the greatest of ease! Trapeze schools offer beginner classes to learn skills from experts in a safe environment.
- Racecar driving experience: Gift them a chance to get behind the wheel of a real racecar at a supervised track event where they can feel the thrill of speeds up to 140 miles per hour.
- Hot air balloon ride: Float peacefully over beautiful landscapes and toast the views with a glass of champagne.
- Zipline ride: A day spent zipping over exhilarating valleys at 25 to 30 miles per hour guarantees pure excitement and a sincere adrenaline rush.
Gifts to Support New Interests and Hobbies
Many older adults take up new hobbies as they find themselves with more free time. It may be a new sport like golfing or pickleball, a domestic activity like cooking or gardening, or learning a new language or traveling. If you can discover what that new interest is, you can tailor a gift to support it, such as one of the following ideas.
Class Gift Certificates
Even if your recipient has only talked about taking up rock climbing, yoga, cooking, or Cantonese, a gift certificate for a well-reviewed class or lecture series would be a great way to start the ball rolling or take them to the next level. Consider both in-person and virtual programs, depending on the type of class, location, availability, and abilities of your friend or family member.
If your recipient is interested in a wide range of subjects, they may enjoy an annual membership to a Lifelong Learning Insitute program. The Bernard Osher Foundation supports a national lifelong learning network for adults 50 and over. These Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes operate on 125 college campuses from Maine to Hawaii and Alaska. They usually offer in-person and/or Zoom classes on subjects as varied as the human immune system to studio art and art history to mastering your iPhone.
Annual Park Passes
From regional to National Parks, having a park pass enables older adults to get outdoors and enjoy nature without having to think about paying for entrance fees and parking.
While pass rates aren’t reduced until after age 62, they still make a relatively affordable and valuable gift. The real deal is the lifetime senior pass for all National Parks, which is $80 for those over 62. Annual senior passes are $20, and regular annual passes are $80.
Most hobbies require materials that constantly need to be refreshed. These make practical gifts that are certain to be used and enjoyed. A few ideas to thrill the hobbyist:
- Woodworking: A woodworker might enjoy an exotic wood bundle to work with that includes woods like ebony and rosewood they wouldn’t buy themselves. Or gift a set of digital calipers for precise wood measurements they likely don't already have.
- Gardening: A gardener can always use new gardening gloves. Or mix gift cards to garden stores with some packets of heirloom seeds so they can get planting!
- Pickleball: One of the fastest growing sports in America, especially with the over-50 set, requires new balls periodically. Monogrammed pickleball bags or totes also make great gifts.
- Cooking: Cooks appreciate gifts supporting their flavor adventures, so spices, seasoned oils, and salt blends make creative gifts cooks will use often. Make your gift with a spice blending kit. Buy small jars, funnels, and cute labels so they can create their own signature spice blends to share or keep.
- Art: Whether your recipient enjoys drawing, watercoloring, ceramics, or collage, they can always use additional paints, sketchpads, clay, or glazes. Because some of these choices are personal, this may be a gift idea to run by them before purchasing anything. A calligraphy pen set with ink and a guidebook make a great gift package for someone new to drawing.
- Travel: Modular packing cubes, personalized luggage tags, and cross-body travel purses are great gifts for new travelers. A more seasoned traveler may enjoy a pocket-sized travel journal to record their experiences.
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- Peak Performance Bundle: For a truly generous gift, consider our bundle of all four supplements for athletes, weekend warriors, and the physically active.
Besides these ideas, we’ve also built a Gift Finder tool to help you find the perfect Gaia Herbs for yourself or your loved ones this holiday season.
We hope this gift guide has sparked your imagination and given you enough ideas to complete your holiday shopping for those over 50.