By Gwenn Voelckers
This column is for all of you who have friends or family members who live alone.
While the holidays can be a joyous time filled with laughter, cheer and gift giving, this time of year may not feel so “merry and bright” for singles. Feelings of loneliness and anxiety are not uncommon and may give way to the holiday blues for those on their own.
What can you do to brighten the holidays for those who live alone? You can give the gift of time together — probably the most welcome and cherished gift of all. You can also give a thoughtful gift to lift a spirit, safeguard a loved one and warm a heart.
Below, I’ve compiled a list of gift ideas for you. Some are practical, others personal, all are designed to put a smile on the face of someone who lives alone:
• An invitation to join you on New Year’s Eve. This can be a challenging night for those who are newly divorced or widowed. I popped the cork with my sister and her husband after my divorce and was deeply grateful for their invitation to spend the evening together. It got my new year off to a great start.
• Tickets or gift certificates to movies, concerts, art openings or the theater. Include an invitation: “Be my guest.” And insist on doing the driving.
• Dancing, cooking or art/craft classes. Do you have a single friend with two left feet? Dancing lessons might be in order. A widowed father who eats supper directly from the container? Consider a cooking class. Or a divorced sister who’s been looking for a creative outlet? A workshop in jewelry-making might delight her. There are so many possibilities!
• An AAA membership. I don’t leave home without it. A flat tire, an empty tank, a lost key – I’ve been there! This is a gift worth its weight in gold.
• Handy tools for emergencies or life’s unexpected moments. Consider a compact “no-battery” wind-up LED flashlight with a hand crank. This is one of my prized possessions.
How about a Swiss Army knife, complete with screwdrivers, scissors, a toothpick, and tweezers? It even comes with a nail file, can opener, and corkscrew.
Or, consider a motion-activated doorbell that sounds a chime or alarm when a visitor (or perhaps Santa?) arrives. Those of us who live alone need to be prepared for whatever life offers up.
• A gift certificate for car washes. While not necessarily a “safety gift,” I always feel better when my car is clean (and that can’t help but make me safer on the road). Who doesn’t enjoy a clean, sparkling car? Choose a car wash near your recipient’s home or work place.
• An opportunity to be “treated like royalty.” How many of your friends who live alone indulge or pamper themselves? My guess is not many, if they’re like me. Who has the time or money? But that’s what makes this the perfect gift!
Why not surprise her with a spa certificate for a massage, facial, manicure or pedicure? Or make his day with a certificate for a gentleman’s facial or deep tissue/sports massage.
You might also consider an extra toasty and colorful pair of socks. One World Goods in Pittsford Plaza features Maggie’s Organic Merino Wool Snuggle Socks with whimsical winter-themed designs. A fair-trade producer and distributor, Maggie’s is the oldest surviving organic apparel company in the US.
• For women in particular who live alone — fresh flowers delivered. Do you know a single woman who lives by herself? When’s the last time she got flowers? It’s probably been years … don’t I know it.
So, delight her with a bouquet of yellow roses or tulips. The color yellow has been closely associated with sunshine, making these flowers excellent for cheering people up.
• And speaking of deliveries, check out Gift of the Month clubs. Coming home alone at any time of year may feel a little empty, but it can really feel lonely during the holidays. Discovering a package on the doorstep can change everything.
Go online and check out gourmet gifts and food clubs. You won’t believe the variety of delicious items that can be delivered on a monthly basis: chocolate, hot sauce, cheese, tea, cigars, wine, beer, pastas, olive oil, cookies, popcorn, pancakes, you name it. I love this idea so much I might treat myself.
• A gift of charity. Making a donation in someone’s name is a gift you can both feel good about. Think about your friend or family member who lives alone. What do they care about? Choose an organization that supports his or her values.
• An invitation to join you in a volunteer activity. Helping others is a great holiday tradition.
• Early on in my solo journey, a dear friend invited me to join her for a holiday gift-wrapping event to support the Humane Society. It felt wonderful to be out of the house and surrounded by other volunteers and staff who embraced the spirit of giving.
• A subscription to “In Good Health” and/or “55 Plus” produced by editor and publisher Wagner Dotto. Both periodicals are filled with inspirational articles and trusted health information. Consider gift subscriptions for your friends and family who live alone. Chances are good your holidays and theirs will be healthier and happier for it.
Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of “Alone & Content” empowerment boot camps for women held throughout the year near Rochester. She is the author of “Alone and Content: Inspiring, empowering essays to help divorced and widowed women feel whole and complete on their own.” Contact her at 585-624-7887, email firstname.lastname@example.org