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Downsizing? Give (and Get) Experiences as Gifts

Grandmother holding grandhild in the snow while skiing

It’s the time of year that those of us that have recently downsized, (or are in the process of downsizing) are uttering the same emphatic request: “…Please don’t get me anything this holiday! I have everything I need.” 

It’s difficult for some of our loved ones to heed this plea. Before the holiday even arrives, our minds begin to wander with thoughts of re-gifting. We have visions of burning all of the boxes, paper and ribbons and bows (and bows and bows!) in a barrel before returning to our pristine new senior apartment. 

There is another way. Giving experiences—and asking for them—is a great alternative to conventional gift giving, especially for downsizing empty nesters who are trying like heck to keep their new 55+ apartments, condos for rent or otherwise smaller homes clutter-free. 

With the holidays underway, most of us have received wish lists from our loved ones. Some go so far as to provide the brand, model number, color, size, etc. to make sure we get it right! For these people, experiential gifts may not work. This is particularly true for the little ones on your list. But if these youngsters grow up enjoying gifted experiences with their families, its very likely that they'll change their minds about the value of experiential gifts.

Shared Experiences Strengthen Family Ties

The idea of giving experiences for the holidays is taking a stronger hold this year, not just with downsizing empty nesters, but with experience-happy millennials and everyone in between, it seems. Experiences don’t wear out or get broken, and sometimes in our memories, they grow more thrilling, delicious and hilarious over time. But it is about making memories and enjoying new things together. The shared experience is precious--much more so than material possessions, we believe.

A 2016 University of Toronto study finds that experiential gifts are “more effective than materials gifts at improving relationships,” from the recipient’s perspective. Co-author Cindy Chan explained that experiential gifts strengthen the bond between the gift giver and recipient. “an experiential gift elicits a strong emotional response when a recipient consumes it—like the fear and awe of a safari adventure, the excitement of a rock concert or the calmness of a spa. It is more intensely emotional than a material possession.” 

The following are just a few ideas for experiential gifts—for giving and receiving.

For the thrill-seekers in your life: 

Indian fanily cooking samosas in the kitchen

For the foodie or amateur chef, brewing, baking, butchering and specialty cooking lessons with any one of Central Ohio’s outstanding culinary houses or personal chefs:

group of wine glasses cheering at wine tasting

For those who prefer more laid-back activities:

  • Music concerts
  • Comedy shows
  • Live Theater 
  • Spa Package
  • Bed and Breakfast weekend
  • Wine Tastings
  • Train travel
  • Movie ticket packages
  • Poetry and Novel Readings
  • Guided nature walks
  • Day trips to historic and cultural landmarks
  • A visit to the family hometown
  • Destination restaurant lunches and dinners

And for the sports enthusiast:

Yes, Central Ohio is Buckeye Nation. But we are good, nee excellent fans of our other teams as well. And if you’ve lived in Central Ohio for five or more years I’m betting you know someone who’s a big fan of The Ohio State Buckeyes, The Columbus Crew Soccer Club or The Columbus Blue Jackets. Or likely all three. If you bought season tickets or a special game, you may need to gift your Bucks Man or Woman a team shirt or hat to tide them over till the coming season.

It’s very likely that if you just downsized to a senior apartment, condo for rent, independent living villa or smaller home, you would very much appreciate getting a gift like this for the holidays, or giving it!  The flexibility of experiential gift giving is part of what makes it so special, and so easy. 

Again, not everyone is bowled over with gifts promising an experience. Children are often very disappointed at getting a promise of fun times later on. But teens, adults and our contemporaries will happily be tided over with a small trinket (a CD of the band they’ll see in a couple months) reminding them of the event.

Grandfather with grandkids camping playing bongos

Ask for Experiences that Include the Whole Family

To get the ball rolling, why not tell your family you’d like to have an experience as a gift. Make it your gift to them, and their gift to you will be their participation! They know you’re downsizing, and chances are they’ll love the collaborative process of putting the experience together. 

Start out on a modest scale. Ask for a weekend get-together at a favorite Hocking Hills cabin to enjoy nature and beat the mid-winter blahs. Your family will appreciate being able to plan the event themselves, and you will appreciate the remarkably low winter rates for cabins in the Hocking Hills region.  Some have fireplaces, some allow pets and all have full kitchens. Who knows, maybe the trip will become annual event.

Family, friends don’t like to camp? Try shorter trips like a visit to the Columbus Museum of Art, ice skating lessons at The Chiller or an evening of stargazing at the Perkins Observatory

Downsizing from Material Possessions Helps Us Spread Love and Joy

If you have a family member or friend who isn’t flush with activities during the holidays, give the experience with a card and message: “It would be a very special gift to me if you would accompany me to the amphibian exhibit at the Columbus Zoo next month, and dinner afterward.” The flexibility of this type of gift is virtually unending. And it shows your loved ones that you truly want to spend time with them. Whether the experience is modest or extravagant, its guaranteed to make great memories.

From the Treplus Communities family to yours, Happiest of Holidays and Warm Wishes for a Wonderful New Year!
Hanukkah 2018 is Sunday December 2nd to Monday December 10th
Christmas 2018 is Tuesday December 25th 
Kwanzaa 2018 is Wednesday December 26th to Tuesday January 1, 2019