It's hard to come up with gifts that won't clutter homes or be difficult to use, understand or carry for seniors who are downsizing, decluttering or moving into senior living scenarios. That's why we polled some seniors for gift ideas they love that are practical, take up little or no space, or make or preserve memories -- the most precious gift, they say, of all.
A big -- and emotional -- downsizing dilemma is what to do with decades' worth of photo albums. For $145, ScanMyPhotos.com will send a box for you to fill with up to 1,800 photographs of any size, which are digitized and returned with CDs and a USB flash drive. MyPhoto (http://www.myphoto.com, $10-$200) provides a unique, fast and easy way to make personalized gifts. You can email a photo and in 20 seconds receive an email with it displayed on all of MyPhoto's gift offerings.
*Clothing That Gives Back
"Smart" garments can protect against skin cancers, ease pain and help correct anatomical disfigurements of aging. Sundriven (https://www.sundriven.com) is a stylish line of dermatologist-tested women's apparel endorsed by the Skin Cancer Foundation. It offers UPF 50+ protection. AlignMed's (https://www.alignmed.com, $95) Posture Shirts are easy to wear and mitigate pain in the shoulders, back and other parts of the torso. They use technology that gently pulls the shoulders back and stimulates nerves, muscles and vascularity while decreasing inflammation.
*For the Love of Pets
Plush animals are known to bring emotional comfort for those with Alzheimer's, improving overall quality of life. Using photos as guides, Petsies (https://www.mypetsies.com, $169-$199) handmakes stuffed animals identical to pets for seniors to hold and hug. LouLou Clayton (https://www.loulouclayton.com, $99 and up) will custom paint a beautiful close-up.
Getting goodies in the mail is a gift in itself, especially if you're far away. Check out Sips by (https://www.sipsby.com, starting at $45), a personalized discovery box of more than 100 international tea brands. Sugar Smart Box (https://www.sugarsmartbox.com, from $29 a month) delivers delicious low-sugar, low-carb, diabetic diet-friendly snacks.
Darn Good Yarn (https://www.darngoodyarn.com, $10 a month) helps employ women in India and Nepal. These women make the skein of premium yarn provided in each delivery. A knit and crochet pattern and a mystery gift are also included.
*Jewelry That Makes Scents
Jewels for Hope (https://www.jewelsforhope.net, starting at $2 for lava beads) makes beautiful aromatherapy designs -- from keychains to necklaces to wear or hang as a freshener -- with lava stone, which absorbs essential oils that help calm and destress or energize. Pair with a bottle of luxurious, long-lasting essential oils from Mevei (https://mevei.com, $34.99).
*For Wine Lovers
The overall health benefits of wine are proven, but sulfites and histamines can cause headaches and hangovers. The sleek Ullo (https://ullowine.com, $79.99) sits on a glass and purifies wine with a special sulfite capture technology, while TheWand (https://drinkpurewine.com, $19.99) removes histamines (found only in red wine) and sulfites.
Tip'n Split (https://tipandsplit.com, $21.95) is a pocket-size all-in-one device with a bright light, magnifying glass and calculator, great for anyone who has trouble reading menus, figuring out the tip or splitting the bill.
Seniors who have trouble sleeping will love a pillow present. Check out Bear Pillow (https://www.bearmattress.com, starting at $95), engineered with special foam that contours to accommodate all sleep positions, supporting the natural curves of the head, neck and spine. It's hypoallergenic and antimicrobial, aiding in the prevention of dust mites, bacteria and allergens.
Tim Murray, president and co-founder of Aware Senior Care, an award-winning in-home care agency, says passes to events and experiences are always a big hit. "They take up zero room, make great memories and are something for seniors to look forward to." He suggests a season ticket to the theater, ballet or opera, a gift card to a favorite restaurant, or a gym pass. "Local gyms have wonderful programs for seniors to stay fit," so a pass combines "fitness and social opportunities in one thoughtful gift."
*Give a Giggle
Humor is scientifically shown to help seniors' -- and everyone's -- health and quality of life. And for seniors who truly do think they have everything, one thing you can bet they don't have is a pet rat. The Gifted Rat (https://thegiftedrat.com, $14.99) offers a realistic but not real pet rat. It is easy to care for, loves to be on a shelf, loves to play hide-and-seek, is a good listener and doesn't make a mess. It comes with an adoption certificate and an entertaining guide on how to care for it and train it to play dead.