A 90th birthday celebration is an amazing milestone to mark with a modest tribute or a wild blow-out. Gifting the birthday girl can pose a dilemma -- 90-year-olds seldom need a whole lot, but they tend to be very appreciative. So put some thought into the perfect present for the nonagenarian in your life. She might be happily knitting in her wheelchair, or out running marathons, Skyping like mad with the grandchildren or great-grandchildren, or watching the bird feeder outside her window. Her interests and abilities should inspire your gift.
Laughter is good for whatever ails you, so break out the humor, tailoring your fun to the well-being and personality of the nonagenarian. A T-shirt, coffee mug or canvas shopping bag with a custom design is easy to arrange. Try: 32, 871 days/788,923 hours/47,304,000 minutes...and counting!; 1925, An Excellent Vintage; Not Everyone Looks This Fabulous at Ninety!; Aged to Perfection; I'm the Boss!; I'm Older Than You! Photo-shop her face onto a movie poster from a favorite classic flick -- a Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly movie, Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, or It's a Wonderful Life. Record all the descendants, especially the smallest ones, saying something they like about her. Edit it into a video; post the video on YouTube and play it at her party.
The Little Things
Age is better than the alternative, but it does come with its petty irritants and diminished abilities. Give her luxurious but useful things that don't add to clutter but provide plenty of pleasure. Scented body cream is soothing for dry skin. A beautiful tin of fancy cookies will last for many afternoon teas. A mani-pedi and lunch with you is a pampered day out -- a trip to the hairdresser and an al fresco supper are good, too. Audio books give tired eyes a rest. A calendar with large, bold numbers and fonts makes it easy to keep track of days. Anyone over the age of 60 can find a use for a magnifying glass set. A beautiful warm shawl will get lots of use. And a grocery store gift card might be really welcome, if she still gets to shop.
Give a Bit of Green
An orchid plant blooms for weeks and requires almost no care. Plant a tree in a nearby park in honor of the birthday girl -- a gift to celebrate her life and grace the community for the next 90 years. Throw an old-fashioned picnic out-of-doors. Use the backyard if travel is too exhausting. Hire a string quartet or make a playlist of iconic music from her teenage and young adult years. Serve all of her favorite bite-sized treats and display a tiered dessert stand of delicate tea cakes instead of a sheet cake. Decorate a comfortable wicker chair for her with pillows, garlands and throws fit for a queen. Landscape her garden or help her plant a raised-bed vegetable patch. A new straw hat and a pair of gardening gloves will keep an intrepid active senior gardener out mucking about among her favorite plants.
Bodacious Bucket List
The 90-year-old you know may not be chomping at the bit to try a zipline in the rain forest -- do look into that if she is. But taking care of a bit of unfinished business might be hilarious, risque, memorable or mind-altering, and put the icing on the cake of a 90th-birthday celebration. Book a girls' night -- or afternoon -- out at a male revue club -- a birthday rather than a bachelorette party. Pool extended family resources to send the birthday girl to a dreamed-of destination with a favorite grandchild -- the Eiffel Tower, a Broadway musical, a flight over the Grand Canyon, an afternoon on Malibu Beach or Rodeo Drive, a whale-watching cruise. Pay for a weekly class to get her out of the house and mingling with like-minded souls, and then celebrate her new skills or knowledge at the birthday party. One family treated granny to a stand-up comedy class and staged a one-woman show with a fast-quipping 90-year-old star.
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .
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