While you're scoping out a range of gifts for your dad, consider certain practical things that are ideal to give at any time of the year, especially for fathers of a certain age.
• Home fixes for better accessibility. Upgrading Dad's home to make it easier to get around doesn't have to be expensive. While some fixes--an outdoor ramp of pressure-treated lumber, for instance--can cost more than $1,000, others--a hand-held shower head, shower grab bar, under-counter LED strips, and lever doorknobs--are a few hundred dollars, tops, and can make a big difference in Dad's comfort and feeling of security.
• Fun computer software and extra online security. Turn Dad on to a online video chat service like Skype so he can connect with younger relatives and friends, no matter how far away. Or, get him a subscription to a genealogy service like Ancestry.com so he can finally get around to researching the family tree. While you're at it, help him install updated computer security software. Having your father write all his passwords on a piece of paper--and then making sure it's stored where he can find it--could help him feel more secure.
• Phone-scam protection. Place your dad on a do-not-call list. This takes a few minutes to do and helps ensure he's not inundated with solicitations. It may also make him less vulnerable to telemarketing scams that plague seniors. In the same vein, consider buying and setting him up with a new cordless phone with caller ID.
• Broach the prospect of hearing aids. If Dad turns the TV volume way up and has trouble hearing in crowded places, he might benefit considerably from using a properly-fitted hearing aid. Check out our advice on buying hearing aids. Keep in mind that it may take a while for him to come around to the idea; typically it takes someone seven years from the time they're first made aware of their need to the time they actually begin the shopping process.
• Give the gift of time. Aside from the obvious benefits of companionship, visiting frequently--and sometimes when you're not expected--can help prevent scam artists--both strangers and family members--from financially exploiting an elderly person. Our report on elder financial abuse outlines numerous other tips to protect dear 'ole Dad.