We’ve done a lot of gift guides so far this year, but they were the more general “her” “him” “under $50” kind with gifts that yes, are picked by us right here, but for some of them, I wanted to know what specific people REALLY wanted, like…our moms and grandmas. So I asked my mother-in-law to ask her friends about what boomer mom/grandmas want for Christmas so we could write that gift guide (and out of genuine curiosity). At first, she didn’t seem that into it, until I got this bombardment of texts after a wine-fueled dinner party where she and her friends got INTO IT. What she proceeded to text me was riveting. Shocking. It wasn’t just what they want, but more what they want us to STOP giving them. And as the investigative journalist that I am, I feel compelled to give you this insider information.
Now, of course, she isn’t speaking for all moms and grandmas ages 55-80 so I know there will be some constructive discourse here, but if you want some insight into what 10 booming boomer women want AND DON’T WANT, keep reading.
Here’s her text:
“Just got to this. This is from polling my friends. Probably boring. Honestly, most of my friends would like theatre and music concert tix, airline passes, spa treatments, large magnified lighted makeup mirrors, hand made things from grandkids, art gallery memberships, gym or Pilates passes, golf lessons, painting lessons, kayak lessons, fly fishing lessons, restaurant credits for ladies who lunch. Best selling books and movies. Gift certificates for garden centers. Cozy winter throws.”
My internal reaction: I was so excited. Fly fishing lessons? Yes. That’s what they want…
But on further analysis, here’s what donned on me: they don’t want to spend their retirement on a temporary experience, especially not knowing if it’s going to be that good, but they still want to have fun and try it out. Plus, being retired, time is what they do have so they want to spend it in interesting, fun and purposeful ways. They don’t want things, they want more experiences and they don’t want to use their retirement money on that. Got it. Ironically, I don’t want those things. Sure, tickets to a band that I love or a play I really want to go to that is GUARANTEED to be good, but if someone gave me a gift certificate to a cooking class or even a spa treatment, I worry that I’ll first lose that piece of paper and second, feel guilty about not having the time to do it. It would actually become a source of guilt.
Learning a lot, right?? Let’s keep going.
“Even photo books take up too much room. How about the new device where you can watch photos on TV screen? Saw an ad, but can’t remember who. Main point—no little tabletop junk.” — Suz Henderson
Me: “So what do you NOT want?”
MIL (Suz): “Please, no more scented candles, picture frames (just send photos we can put on Facebook, we have thousands of frames). Which brings me to the thousands of photos—printed and digital. As we all eventually downsize, what to do? Even photo books take up too much room. How about the new device where you can watch photos on TV screen? Saw an ad, but can’t remember who. Main point—no little tabletop junk.”
My analysis: Alright. No more tchotchkes. That absolutely makes sense that after decades of collecting you have too much PLUS you are likely going to downsize so it just feels like a burden. BUT NO MORE PHOTO BOOKS???? The last one I gave them is on their coffee table for a reason! I’m going to call BS on this one, but I’m also not going to make another one. I LOVE photo books! WE look at ours all the time. I don’t want to have to look at a device with the kids to relive memories. I don’t believe her.
Ironically, I’m just getting into framed family photos and love how much it warms up our home, but it totally makes sense that in 30 years from now, I might have enough and the amount of frames might feel like a burden. You don’t want to give them away because it was a sentimental gift but you might not want 15-year-old photos that aren’t really that good taking up real estate. So yes, Suz, there are a bunch of digital frames out there (and video calling devices like Facebook Portal and Google Nest Hub). You got it.
Me: “Do you guys like clothes? Scarves? Slippers? Robes? Luxury cashmere socks? Or not really? This is fascinating.”
Suz: “Honestly, maybe pretty silk or cashmere scarves, depending on climate. Robes and slippers—boring…unless granny is really old. But she’ll stick with her old, comfy stuff. We still love makeup, eye creams, and moisturizers and really good body creams as we are dry and wrinkly. I don’t take baths, but many of my friends do so the bathtub accessories and moisturizing soaks would be good.
For those of us that workout, cute workout clothes with no short or sleeveless tops.
Many of us are in book groups, so a Kindle or real best-selling books would be great…not sure if you can gift those Kindle books. But at $10 per book, gets pricey.
Is this helpful?
I’m on a roll!!”
Me: “Um. YESSSSS. I’m riveted. What else?”
Suz: “Find out mom’s interests: walking (step tracker), golf? Lots of golf websites for shoes, clothes, hats, golf clubs. Golf bags that can be personalized.
For friends that hike: backpacks, walking sticks, maps of local hiking sites. Fly fishing classes. Family trips to dude ranches (I’d love that.)
“I think Suz Henderson secretly wants some fly fishing classes, she’s mentioned it twice as if it’s just a thing that most people do.” — Me (Emily Henderson)
Books/websites about what grandparents can do to entertain grandkids daily or for longer periods-age appropriate. (Local outings, nature walks, arts & crafts, cooking, gardening, games, puzzles, etc.)?
My (internal) analysis: I think Suz Henderson secretly wants some fly fishing classes, she’s mentioned it twice as if it’s just a thing that most people do. But maybe at 70, you don’t want cooking classes, you’ve done that for decades. You want to do something mellow and relaxing in nature. And classes would force that. I can’t wait for your weeklong retreat in Montana next summer, Suz!
My actual response: “Okay, this post is going to be SOOO GOOD. Now if you were to receive homemade gifts from kids, do you have any sort of preference? Drawings versus ornaments? Like what do grandparents really want from their grandkids?”
Suz: “I think a written list: what I like to do with grandma or grandpa. Things I love about G; my favorite memory/time with G; G is funny when he/she does this; my wish for G is…; an animal that reminds me of G (with drawing). Christmas ornament with photo with G; a handprint with age & date; handmade necklace/bracelet; a compilation of videos with grandparents that can be watched on tv screen.”
And then it ended. One of us likely went to bed, but I just felt like it was such good insight into a generation that while I have so much in common with, are in such a different time in their life and have different needs. For instance, if someone bought me fly fishing lessons, I would open it and see guilt and shame, knowing that if I likely would never use it or if I did, it would be at the sacrifice of my kids or team.
Meanwhile she asked me what I want from her for Christmas, and I sent her links to two things on my gift guide that I will buy for myself if no one else does: the meatball maker which she replied via text “ugh, boring,” and this village cake for a new Christmas Eve or day tradition with the kids (no response).
Then I text, “All I really, really want from you guys is childcare so Brian and I can go away for a few weekends this year, maybe even New York for 4-5 days to see shows and relive our twenties. Or hell, out of the country; it’s been 8 YEARS since just he and I traveled together.”
I’ll buy myself that meatball maker if they give us some grandparent and (therefore guilt-free) childcare time. I may not have said all of that in one text, but that’s the request.
She agreed with two big thumbs up emojis.
I guess what it boils down to is that in my stage of life (running a company, small kids, no time for myself, girlfriends or husband) what I really want is MORE time and less guilt. And in HER stage of retired life, she has an abundance of time (and a ton of energy) so she wants to book it up doing interesting, cultural, physical and fun things but doesn’t want to feel like she is draining her retirement to pay for the Justin Timberlake concert or, say, fly fishing lessons. 🙂
Boy is it productive (and fun) being honest about what you want (got it, Suz, NO MORE SCENTED CANDLES). 🙂
Oh, and per Suz’s request, her true gift for Christmas in lieu of fly fishing lessons is having this photo (sorry for the quality) with my kids be published on the blog. 🙂 JUST JOKING YOU’LL STILL GET YOUR FLY FISHING LESSONS.