The holiday season is in full swing, which means that it’s time for the not-so-holly-jolly holiday shopping season. While we all have these images in our heads of brightly wrapped packages, beautiful storefront windows and a magical feeling in the air, the truth is that buying gifts at this time of year can be stressful, annoying and – especially for seniors who have difficulty getting around for a variety of reasons – time consuming and even unsafe.
“When you think about it, the holidays are really the worst time of the year to be out on the roads and shopping,” says Sue Sunderland, Executive Director of The Bridges at Warwick, a supportive personal care community in Jamison, PA. “The weather is often bad, it gets dark early in the evening and the roads can be treacherous. For seniors needing to get gifts for friends and family, the hustle and bustle can be overwhelming.”
Add the fact, she says, that many seniors may have limited transportation options.
“As we get older, our vision and reflexes may decline, and many seniors aren’t comfortable driving or simply are unable to do so,” she says. “This means if they want to go to the mall to shop they have to rely on friends or family, public transportation or a car service like Uber. Since everyone is already busy, this can result in a lot of frustration and a lot of difficulty having successful shopping trips.”
But don’t despair, senior shoppers. Here are some tips to help you cross everyone off your gift list with the minimum of fuss.
Plan ahead and choose off-times to shop.
Every year, we see video of surging Black Friday crowds cramming into store aisles and jamming up parking lots. While that frenetic feel jingles some people’s bells, it’s probably best for seniors to shop when there aren’t large, aggressive crowds of bargain seekers. Make your list, create a plan of action for where you’re going to go, and then chose a non-peak time to hit the mall. First thing in the morning or later in the evening on weekdays are surprisingly shopper-free, most of the time. Many stores have extended hours for the holiday season, so you may have even more flexibility when it comes to attacking your gift list.
Go with a group or get a shopping buddy.
If you live in a senior community like The Bridges at Warwick, there are transportation services available to you. (There may also be options at your local senior center or other community organization.) Gather a group of friends and fellow shoppers and plan a time to go together. Shopping is more fun in groups, and you can also take away the stress of having to drive yourself. If you live independently, have your own car and don’t mind driving, consider asking friends or family members who have difficulties if they want to join you. Here’s an added bonus of having shopping buddies: another pair of hands to push carts, and someone who can hold your place in line while you’re dashing to pick up that one thing you forgot.
Look into senior-specific personal transportation options.
There are a variety of personal transportation options available through local businesses, nonprofits and city or state programs. If your city offers these services, this is a great way for you to get to and from places without having to rely on public transit. Oftentimes these options are affordably priced. Here are a few of the types of options available:
- Volunteer Driver Programs: These are usually nonprofits or faith-based organizations who partner with volunteers to provide transportation services. You’ll have to make reservations in advance, but the cost is minimal and sometimes free.
- Para-transit Service: These private agencies act as a shuttle service using small vans or minibuses to get seniors and those with disabilities to and fro.
- Door-through-Door Service: These types of private agencies offer full-service concierge service to wherever you need to go and back again. In addition to providing the transportation, these services offer assistance related to your trip both in the home and at the shopping destination.
- Personal Transportation Options. Check with your local Area Agency on Aging to see what transportation options are out there. They can range from individual drivers to larger organizations including:
- Supplemental Transportation Programs for Seniors (STPs) - organizations run by volunteers and staff and funded through donations and grants
- SEPTA’s CCT-CONNECT Shared Ride Program - a Philadelphia area program that offers door-to-door transportation to seniors age 65 and older, with a variety of attendant services and shared rides available.
Skip the lines and shop online.
More and more shoppers are opting to order their gifts online, and for good reason: it’s fast, shipping is usually free (or cheap) and it can be done from the comfort of your couch. Many stores offer online-only deals, especially on Cyber Monday (the Monday following Thanksgiving). If you do opt for online shopping, here are some tips for keeping yourself and your financials secure:
- Choose to check out as a “guest” if possible so you don’t have to create a new account (especially if it’s a site you don’t frequent).
- If you do set up an account or have one already, choose strong passwords and opt to not save your credit card number in their system.
- Only shop with reputable, trusted companies with good return policies.
- Use a credit card to make purchases instead of a debit card. That way, if your information is compromised, you’ll have the protections offered to you by the credit card company.
For more information about holiday shopping trips for seniors, or if you’d like more information about our senior living community, contact our staff at The Bridges at Warwick.
Activity. Friendship. Support. Convenience. Value.
You’ll find it all at The Bridges at Warwick, located in beautiful Bucks County, where everyday is a celebration of seniors. Our philosophy of “Celebrating Life” means that our residents enjoy a sense of purpose and contentment along with fun, personalized care and a focus on total well-being.
Our Personalized Supportive Care provides just the right amount of assistance to help you remain independent, along with life-enriching programs, services and amenities. Our exclusive Vista Transitional Living Program offers specialized programming our supportive care residents who have memory challenges but do not yet require a secure residence. For those whose memory loss is more advanced, we offer The Vista, our secure, comprehensive memory care residence.
In keeping with our founder Robert Basile’s personal philosophy, developed during his efforts to find quality senior living for his beloved father, senior adults remain our passion. We fill our residents’ lives with countless opportunities to engage with both new and treasured friends; events and programs to enjoy with family members and loved ones; as well as innovative and creative activities that foster engagement. Our dedication to total wellness – for mind, body and spirit – is woven into our culture every day.