8 Worst Gifts for Seniors (and What to Give Instead)

Avoid these well-intentioned, but worst gifts for seniors
Date published: 2021-11-08

Well-intentioned gifts can still cause problems or upset seniors

We all have the best intentions when choosing a gift for someone.

However, there are some items that may seem like great ideas on the surface, but after further thought, turn out to be some of the worst gifts for seniors.

These worst gifts could inadvertently harm their health, cause frustration or upset, or become household hazards.

To help you avoid these pitfalls, we’ve rounded up the 8 worst gifts for seniors and share plenty of suggestions for what to give instead.

We help you focus on items that suit your older adult’s personality, preferences, lifestyle, and current abilities.

Use this guide to steer away from presents that end up causing a problem and toward something that will bring your older adult joy.


The latest tech gadget can end up frustrating seniors, making it a bad gift

1. The latest tech gadget

Some older adults are tech-savvy and enjoy learning to use the latest innovations.

But others prefer to keep things simple and stick with what’s familiar. If your older adult falls into this category, then a high tech gift won’t be a good fit.

For example, the latest and greatest smartphone will have a steep learning curve and too many features for someone who’s never used a mobile phone before. Most likely, they’ll get frustrated and won’t want to learn to use it.

Another example is a gift of a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu. For someone who rarely touches a computer and doesn’t have a smart TV, it will be frustrating to access and might not have the type of shows they prefer.

Instead, try these gift ideas:
It is possible to gift a helpful technology item to someone who isn’t tech-savvy. 

The key is to look for something that fits with their lifestyle and current abilities and is designed in a senior-friendly way.

For example:

  • A senior-friendly mobile phone like the GreatCall Jitterbug flip phone means they can carry a phone with them at all times, but it’s still simple and easy to use
  • A dementia-friendly mobile phone like the RAZ Memory Cell Phone is a single-screen, picture-based cell phone that someone with cognitive impairment can actually use
  • The Amazon Echo Show 8, Echo Show 5, Echo (4th Gen) and Echo Dot (4th Gen) are voice-controlled assistants, so after someone does the initial setup, your older adult can use it by simply saying things like “Alexa, play music” or “Alexa, tell me the news.” And the Amazon Echo Show models have the added benefit of making video calling a breeze.
  • A simplified tablet like the GrandPad or Claris Companion is great for seniors who just want a simple, secure way to share photos and messages with family and friends


Food and drinks that worsen existing health conditions make terrible gifts for seniors

2. Food or drinks they shouldn’t consume

One of the worst gifts for seniors is food or drinks they should be avoiding due to a serious health condition – no matter how much they used to enjoy them.

For example, don’t give a big box of chocolates to someone with diabetes, a rich meal at a steakhouse to someone with high cholesterol, or a gift basket of preserved meats and salty snacks to someone with high blood pressure.

And since many older adults are taking multiple medications to manage serious health conditions, it’s generally not a good idea to give alcoholic beverages like wine or whiskey.

Instead, try these gift ideas:
Something that makes everyday life pleasant or fun would be a thoughtful, useful, and safe gift.

For example: 


Some gifts can unintentionally remind seniors that they’re lonely

3. Gifts that require companionship

Board games might seem like a fun gift for seniors, but ones with complex rules or small pieces are more likely to be frustrating than entertaining.

Plus, after the holiday festivities are over, they could be a sad reminder that nobody is around to play on a regular basis.

Instead, try these gift ideas:
During the holidays, it’s wonderful to bring along games to play as a group.

But for a thoughtful gift to keep, your older adult might want something that helps keep family and friends close even if they live far away.

For example:


It’s rude to gift seniors with things that try to change their behavior

4. Gifts that push them to make a change

Nobody wants a gift that’s actually a nudge toward changing something that they‘re not ready to change.

For example, most people wouldn’t be pleased to be gifted with a gym membership after they’ve gained weight over the previous year. It would be different if they had clearly expressed interest or asked for such a gift. But it doesn’t feel good to receive it as a “push in the right direction.”

Similarly, older adults who are getting a bit unsteady, but have been resistant to the idea of using a cane or walker, probably wouldn’t appreciate getting one as a gift.

Reserve those for someone who already uses a mobility aid and would appreciate one with new features, different color, or innovative design.

Another example is to gift an older adult who’s been showing signs of mild cognitive impairment with brain games or cognitive exercises. They might be offended or get upset at the reminder.

Instead, try these gift ideas:
The holidays are a time to give gifts that fit your older adult’s interests, rather than something that’s “good for them.”

For example:


Seniors might feel that monitoring systems are a terrible gift and get angry

5. Monitoring systems

To make sure your older adult is safe, one solution is to place cameras or passive monitoring systems throughout their home. 

These systems tend to be expensive, so it might seem like it’s appropriate to give as a generous holiday gift.

But if being watched 24/7 isn’t something your older adult wants, this well-intentioned gift could feel like you’re using the holiday as an opportunity to be overbearing or controlling.

Instead, try these gift ideas:
If the goal is to improve their safety at home, you might consider upgrading often used items to make life easier and safer.

For example:


Strenuous exercise that causes overexertion is a bad gift for seniors

6. Exercise routines that don’t suit their current activity level

In general, regular exercise is recommended by doctors and does help improve and maintain health in all people.

But seniors need to take a careful approach to find exercises that are suitable for their current physical condition.

A well-meaning family member might give an older adult a popular exercise DVD as a gift. But if they’re not familiar with the older adult’s health condition and physical abilities, they won’t realize that the routine is too strenuous and could cause dizziness, falls, injury, or worse.

Instead, try these gift ideas:
If the older adult enjoys exercise and would be open to trying new routines, it’s best to speak with the primary caregiver to find out what would be appropriate.

If that’s not possible, it’s best to focus on simple, gentle exercise routines that are safe for most older adults.

For example:


Pets seem like a good gift, but the constant care and upkeep make it one of the worst ideas

7. Pets

Pets are wonderful companions and pet therapy has proven to be very helpful for people with a variety of health conditions.

So, you might think that a pet would make a great gift for an older adult.

Unfortunately, a pet needs attention, feeding, cleaning, grooming, toys, accessories, and medical care. This all costs money and takes significant time and energy.

Some pets could even become tripping hazards if they like to run around people’s feet while they’re walking.

Instead, try these gift ideas:
Your older adult could still spend time with animals or find enjoyment in a substitute.

For example:

  • Find a family member, neighbor, or friend with a calm pet and arrange for regular visits with your older adult
  • Pet therapy programs exist all over the country. Search online for programs in your area or ask animal organizations to find one near your older adult and arrange regular visits.
  • For seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia, a specially-designed Joy for All Pet Companion robotic cat or puppy that moves in realistic ways and responds to touch might be a great substitute pet (get 15% off with discount code CARE15 at checkout). Find out more about these robotic pets in our review here.


Candles seem like a lovely gift for seniors, but can easily cause dangerous fires

8. Common household hazards

Another one of the worst gifts for seniors is something that could easily become a household hazard. A top risk is a flammable item like a candle.

A scented candle may seem like a wonderful gift that creates a relaxing, spa-like atmosphere. But candles are easy to forget about – which can quickly lead to a fire.

Instead, try these gift ideas:
There are many safe gift items that also create a relaxing, comfortable environment.

For example:


Recommended for you:


By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Social City Net, Home Care Assistance, Happy Seniors, Aged Care Guide, Advanced Integrated Security, Burlington Sports Therapy, Loretto, LightBulbs.com


This article wasn’t sponsored, but does contain affiliate links. We never link to products or services for the sole purpose of making a commission. Recommendations are based on our honest opinions. For more information, see How We Make Money.


  • Reply November 9, 2021


    Great ideas!

  • Reply December 22, 2020

    Vanessa Jackson

    This list has some good points, it also makes some glaring generalizations about older adults. We are not a monolith. The gift should suit the recipient and their stage of life. The latest tech gadget would be great for me. I would also resent the gift of a monitoring system.
    Older adults are vibrant engaged human beings. I would like to see a list that reflects our engagement with life.

    • Reply January 4, 2021


      We’re sorry that this article isn’t relevant to you. Our website is focused on supporting families who are caring for older adults who need assistance with the activities of daily life. This is a group of older adults who are need care, typically due to very advanced age or serious chronic health conditions.

  • Reply December 10, 2020

    C E May

    A robot dog/cat isn’t quite there yet. Having a therapy animal visit is nice. With the pandemic, I would refrain from pets or fake pets.

    • Reply December 10, 2020


      A robotic pet may be right for some and not for others. We’re presenting ideas here that people may not have known existed so they can make their own choices.

  • Reply December 14, 2019

    Bryan Dennis Johnson

    Oh I wondered what I was doing wrong Ha Ha ( Only Joking )

    Fantastic article

    All the Best

    Bryan Dennis Johnson

    • Reply December 14, 2019


      Ha ha 🙂 We’re so glad you enjoyed the article!

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