Seniors can be notoriously hard to buy for, and Valentine's Day is no exception. In fact, consumers 65 and up are less likely to celebrate the day than other age groups -- less than 45 percent do, according to the National Retail Federation. That doesn't mean a thoughtful Valentine's present won't bring a smile -- though it's best to skip the cliché flowers.
A box of chocolates is classic, but it's also a bit of a yawn. Instead, track down retro candy your sweetheart may have eaten as a child -- think Bottle Caps, candy buttons, Baby Ruth bars, Necco wafers, and the like -- and present it in a gift basket. Old Time Candy Company and CandyWarehouse.com have wide selections and offer gift boxes.
Even if they used to pride themselves on their cooking, some seniors no longer have the mobility or energy to whip up elaborate meals. That's why a meal made at home can be a big hit. Consider hearty favorites such as casseroles or dinner-ready pastas that taste great as leftovers and are easily frozen for future meals.
Combine a love of food and family by gathering treasured recipes, adding favorites from loved ones, and making an heirloom that that can be passed down to the grandkids. Sites such as Heritage Cookbook and Blurb make the process mostly seamless, and you can add family photos to make the book a real keepsake. Prices start as low as $15.
Don't let digital picture frames scare a tech-wary senior: They require little fussing while showing a steady stream of photos and even short video clips. An 8-inch Aluratek digital photo frame is $41 from Best Buy, where customer reviews give it an average 4 out of 5 stars. It can be easily preloaded with pictures and videos from a USB drive or SDHC camera card. Wi-Fi connected models allow friends and family members to send photos directly to the frame.
There's nothing like candlelight for creating ambience, but anxiety about remembering to put out the flame may spoil the mood. Flameless candles use LED lights instead of a real flame and are available to fit nearly any candleholder. Some, such as a set of six in different sizes from Bed, Bath & Beyond ($30), even come with a remote and a realistic flickering effect.
Warm the heart -- and cold feet -- with a pair of non-skid slipper socks that provide a steady grip on slick floors. Some versions are made with heathered yarn for extra softness, and some with a fleece lining -- perfect for chilly mornings. Kmart has men's thermal socks for $17 and women's slipper socks on sale for $5.25 (regularly $7).
Subscription boxes can bring a smile every month with selections for just about every taste and interest, some starting as low as $12 a month. They include Knit Crate for knitters, Grow Journey for gardeners, Birdie Box for golfers, and Lucky Tackle Box for fishers. Not sure about a theme? Grand Box, aimed at recipients 65 and up, delivers a different mix of snacks and practical products each time.
Retirees often use their newfound free time to volunteer for a good cause. If your Valentine already has a cause, contact the organization directly to arrange a donation in their name. Or buy a charity gift card from TisBest that allows the recipient to choose from hundreds of charities and choose whether they want the amount to combat world hunger, protect the environment, aid animals in need, or help other causes.
Delight puzzle-solvers with one made out of a favorite family photo -- maybe an old wedding photo (perfect for Valentine's Day) or a new portrait of the grandkids. Shutterfly offers easy-to-customize templates that accommodate several pictures (starting at $30) while puzzle giant Ravensburger makes customized puzzles from 100 pieces all the way up to 1,500 (starting at $28).
There's nothing better than a song to get the memories flowing. Make a mix of favorite tunes on CD or a digital playlist, depending on how the recipient listens. Need inspiration? Boomers Life keeps a list of top hits from the '50s, '60s, and '70s, while Time Life offers popular collections broken down by era and genre. (You may opt to buy individual tracks from services such as Apple's iTunes and Google Play.)
Help take the chill off with a heated throw blanket (with automatic shutoff for safety) for use while reading, crafting, or watching TV. It's hard to go wrong with an inexpensive fleece option such as a Sunbeam heated throw ($35 from Amazon). Splurge on a sherpa- or mink-style throw for extra softness. For reading in bed or those who want to keep their legs free, opt for a heated shawl such as the Sunbeam Chill-Away ($30).
Many seniors are interested in tracing family history to put a productive spin on retirement but may not know where to begin. A gift membership to a genealogical site, such as Ancestry, may be just the thing. If a subscription is too much -- prices start at $99 for six months of U.S. information only, or $149 for worldwide information -- consider giving a DNA test kit ($99) that will tell the recipient about their ethnic background.
If nothing on this list seems quite right, consider giving the one thing a senior probably wants most: your time. Consider participating in a favorite hobby such as playing cards or a board game, or pencil in a lunch date at a favorite restaurant just to chat and enjoy each other's company. Live too far away? Call -- or, better yet, arrange a video call with a tech-savvy senior using Skype, Apple's FaceTime, or Google Hangouts.