12/20/2022 | By Terri L. Jones

If you’re struggling to find the perfect gift – especially for someone who has everything … or at least enough – Seniors Guide writer Terri L. Jones suggests giving experience gifts instead of material presents. See why and what she recommends.

If you’re like most of us, your counters, cabinets, and closets are packed to overflowing with things. In fact, according to the LA Times, the average home is filled with more than 300,000 items! However, researchers have shown that having a lot of material possessions does not necessarily lead to happiness. But having experiences – and creating memories that last – does.

This year, rather than another coffee mug or picture frame as a present, why not exchange experience gifts instead? Experiences are not one-size-fits-all, and they may require more thought than a store-bought gift, but when you find the perfect one, it could turn out to be the best gift you’ve ever given. And you may receive something equally enriching, empowering, and fun in return! Below are some ideas to get you thinking:

Six ideas for experience gifts

1. Joining

Whether a local museum, a gym, or a winery, a membership not only gives your loved ones entrée to an activity they enjoy, but it also helps them bond with people who share similar interests. If they’re new to an area, joining an organization or club is a great way to connect with their new community, for experience gifts that keep on giving.

Women in an outdoor art class. Image by Elena2305. For article on experience gifts.

2. Learning

Is your granddaughter a budding artist? Maybe your brother has always wanted to learn to play the ukulele. Giving your family member art, music, horseback riding lessons – you name it – could jumpstart a lifelong passion for them. Plus, you could get a gift of artwork or a mini concert in return! You could also give them the gift of remote learning through a site like MasterClass or a subscription to an app.

Related: Tips for learning a musical instrument, no matter your age

3. Attending

Just about everyone has a band or performer they’d be thrilled to see in person or a sports team that they’d love to cheer on from the stands. Find out when a friend’s favorite musician or team is playing nearby and surprise them with tickets.

Unless that person has another close friend or spouse who can do some subtle snooping, you might need to spoil the surprise by ensuring that they’re available at the time of the concert or game. Either way, it’ll be worth it!

4. Adventuring

Do you know someone who has always talked about skydiving, mountain climbing, scuba diving, bungee jumping, or something equally daredevilish? Give that adventurous spirit a hand in realizing their dreams with a gift card toward learning to climb or doing a tandem jump, etc. While they may not achieve the summit of Kilimanjaro, they will achieve an incredible sense of accomplishment. Plus, by encouraging them to move out of their comfort zone, you’re giving them a rich, long-lasting gift!

5. Pampering

Indulgences like a massage, a delicious restaurant meal, professional manicure-pedicure, or a car detail may not be in the budget for some people on your gift list. Consider which little extras might delight and pamper or simply lighten the load for someone you love and treat them to that indulgence. A day at the spa is better than a blender any day of the week!

6. Spending time together

Some friends and family members, such as grandparents living in a downsized home or community, might value simple together time more highly than any fancy item or experience gift. The promise of a regular date will not only provide cherished memories, it will give your loved one something to look forward to throughout the year. These activities may be free, like a weekly hike or window shopping at a favorite mall, or at minimal cost, such as a visit to a different museum each month.

“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” says Thomas Gilovich, a researcher at Cornell University, who studied why experiences give us more happiness than material things. He and his fellow researchers discovered that experiences are an even greater part of a person’s identity than material goods are. “Our experiences collectively make up our autobiography,” the researchers reported. “In a very real and meaningful sense, we are the sum total of our experiences.”

Terri L. Jones

Terri L. Jones has been writing educational and informative topics for the senior industry for over ten years, and is a frequent and longtime contributor to Seniors Guide. She also writes for many other local magazines and publications.

Terri Jones