Gifts for Grandma

Alex Cook's photo

By Alex Cook

Recently I learned about a concept that truly reshaped how I think about relationships with loved ones.

Let’s say your grandma is 80. Based on your family history and her current health, you expect she’ll live to 85. If you see her 4 times per year, you don’t have 5 years with her: You have 20 more visits.

Me and my elderly grandmother, my arm around her. She has pearls on and I'm wearing black ring. Big smiles!
One time I visited my grandma at assisted living. She asked me to go to her house and look for her lost wedding band. I didn’t find it, but we had a great time looking through the hundreds of jewelry items I did find.

I don’t share this idea to be a downer. I share it because it’s a profound way to rethink just how precious our relationships are with loved ones and to maximize the time we have left with them.

Here are a 5 gift ideas for grandma all centered around spending more time with grandma.

1. Schedule Regular Visits or Outings

Find out a time that’s good for grandma to get together on a regular basis. If she goes to church on Sunday mornings, maybe you can meet her right after for Sunday brunch.

Regular visits with loved ones can help you form stronger bonds. Regular social interactions are important for people of all ages, especially older grandparents and great grandparents.

At 93, my grandfather stopped driving. Around the same time, his doctor put him on blood thinners to avoid a possible heart attack. He grew out a beard. Unable to hold a trimmer himself to do arthritis, his beard got pretty big and disheveled! One day, my mom handed me a trimmer and asked me to visit and help grandpa trim his beard. Suddenly, my grandpa started affectionately referring to me as “his barber.”

My regular barbering visits often morphed into cooking dinner for my grandparents or bringing them a delicious order of 5 Guys burgers.

While I only played a small role in taking care of my grandfather in the final years of his life, it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

Me trimming Grandpa Cook's beard
Becoming my grandpa’s “barber” helped me ensure I visited every 2-3 weeks, otherwise he’d get overgrown. Around Christmas, he’d tell me to trim it a little less so he can “look like Santa!” 😂

2. Make a Date to go Through her Wedding Album Together

Grandma’s photo album is a beautiful remembrance. One of the qualities I love the most is in most cases, the photos don’t exist anywhere else. They’re pre-digital photo, pre-scanner era photos — a time capsule unlike any other.

1945 wedding. Groom on the left, bride on the right holding a bouquet of flowers and wearing an ankle-height dress.
My grandparents’ wedding in 1945. My wife and I visited my grandparents to go through their wedding album one Sunday about a year before our wedding. My grandma was so proud of her tailored ankle-height dress. A trend setter! She called my wife at least twice a month leading up to the wedding to check in on how the dress shopping was going.

Sitting down with grandma to go through her photo album is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend time with her. If she’s up for it, consider asking her to let you take video of her going through the book. Even just recording audio is a lovely way to capture memories.

3. Monthly NanaGram Photo Deliveries

NanaGram is a service that helps you mail regular printed photos to grandma every month. All you have to do is text message or email us your photos and we handle the rest.

A woman holding 3 printed photos in her kitchen, smiling and wearing a great sweater and blue jeans.
My neighbor George’s mom: Grandma Hill

While on the surface it looks like it’s a simple product for sending photos, the real goal of NanaGram is to help people form stronger bonds with loved ones.

Our regular photo deliveries get sent every month. We include a cover photo with each shipment, listing the names and phone numbers of everyone on the account sending photos with you. We get countless reports of grandmothers calling their kids and grandkids every month!

Plans start at $6.99 per month and we guarantee grandma will love it or we’ll give you a full refund.

4. Get Grandma a Bird Feeder and Visit on a Regular Basis to Fill it

The best gift I ever gave my grandparents (aside from NanaGram 😉) was a bird feeder. Not because of the feeder itself, but because it brought them joy every morning and acted as a “forcing function” to get me to visit them more often.

My grandparents’ home had a beautiful backyard which they both cherished. Out back were a couple huge oak trees and with the trees came lots of birds.

“☎️[BEEP] Alex, this is your grandma. The bird feeder is almost empty!”

My grandma had several bird feeders over the years but always gave up filling them because she was in a seemingly constant war with the neighborhood squirrels. Every feeder ended up in the shed.

Fast forward to Christmas a few years ago. I researched all the bird feeders out there and stumbled on Squirrel Buster. This feeder is like the Fort Knox of feeders. There’s a small ring on the bottom hooked up to a spring inside. When a squirrel steps on it, all of the holes close up and the squirrel can’t steal anything! Birds, even cardinals, aren’t heavy enough to engage the mechanism.

I bought their largest model, grabbed my grandpa’s trusty aluminum ladder and scaled up the back of their house, hanging the feeder on a hook just outside their kitchen sink window.

My grandma loved to call me, but suddenly she started calling more to share bird reports. And, she’d make sure I knew when the birder was low; a gentle suggestion for me to come over and fill it up.

5. The Facebook Portal or Amazon Echo Show

One of the most hilarious moments with my grandparents involves an Amazon Echo Show. I bought my grandfather one a couple years ago. They didn’t have internet at the time, so I also set up an appointment for Comcast to come out and get them hooked up. During the initial “unboxing” of the Echo Show, my grandfather hilariously struggled with Alexa, trying to get it to play one of his favorite songs. I taped the whole thing and it ended up being on the viral tv show “Right This Minute.”

Jokes aside, the Echo Show and devices like it are incredible. People who don’t have any experience using a computer mouse or iPhone can communicate in high resolution video and audio at a distance. They’re a perfect way to stay in touch, even if you live across the country.

At the time I reviewed the Echo Show, the device had a few limitations. My biggest struggle was just teaching my grandparents to accept and make calls. They’d often fumble with the buttons and once we were connected, they’d rarely be directly in front of the camera.

Facebook Portal is a good alternative to look at, especially with the camera which follows your grandparents around the room.