Children grow out of clothes and toys really fast; they need gifts just so the parents can keep up. Young adults (especially if they are setting up a household of their own) need clothing and “toys” and household things, because money is apt to be tight. Older adults may still need gifts (usually practical ones) if they have limited income. But if you have a couple over 50, who have both been working at middle-income jobs for 30+ years, they probably already have a lot of stuff. They can usually afford to buy for themselves what they really want. And unless there has been some sort of disaster, they have all the clothing and “toys” and household items they really need. For them, gift-giving occasions can add to an already full house.
Years ago I became a fan of gifts that don’t take up space or get used up: Gift certificates to services (especially massages!) or stores they like to visit, donations to a favorite charity or cause, soaps, incense, food (if you know what they like), candles, that sort of thing. The list varies according to the person. Homemade gift certificates for chores around the house are also a good idea (mowing the lawn, washing windows, painting a room, usually anything that takes time and effort).
This year my husband and other family members got it just right — photos of the kids, yarn (knitters always need yarn, even if they don’t know what they will knit with it yet), chocolate, something WoW related, DVDs, and music. But there are also the gifts that are very nice, but I really don’t need more of. Or the gifts that were given because the person felt pressure to give something for Christmas.
The greatest gifts I have received this year have been the gifts of time. Sitting around a fire talking with friends. Face to face conversations with family members, without the distraction of TV. People who actually listen to what you are saying, who ask “What do you think?” and are willing to accept you even when you disagree about some things. Those are the things I value most. For older adults, it is the gift of time.