Aging Parents: Are Thank You’s Obsolete?

Wouldn’t you think THANK YOU like I LOVE YOU
would never go out of style?

What happened to “THANK YOU”
….not to mention “THANK YOU” notes

There’s a ubiquitious complaint among aging parents and grandparents, mostly ages 75+, who have sent gifts to younger family members (and others–think weddings). They don’t always receive a thank you.

  • For an older person who has spent time thinking about THE perfect gift–
  • For grandparents who have contacted their adult children to find out what gift their grandchildren would love the most–
  • For every old person whose way of showing love and caring includes time spent picking out the exact, perfect gift, possibly going to the trouble of wrapping it or having it gift wrapped–
  • Plus paying to send or mail those gifts….

…lack of a thank you can cause worry and/or hurtful thoughts (they aren’t appreciated, recipients are too busy).

Good manners were instilled in our elders. People wrote thank you notes for gifts…period. While good manners are much more relaxed these days, wouldn’t we think “Thank You” like “I Love You” should never go out of style? That said, many elders who have sent gifts (as opposed to personally giving them) are left wondering…

Did the gift arrive? Did they address it wrong? Did the store slip up?  Instead of gift-giving bringing joy, there’s doubt, anxiety and additional effort if they feel the need to track the gift.

If the gift was a check and they and don’t hear back, they not only worry if it arrived–but if it hasn’t been cashed when the next bank statement comes, the concern mounts. This age group remembers the old days, before computers, when bank balances were computed by humans, a time when mistakes were sometimes made. These elders may well check their balances to the last penny.

And there’s additonal frustration for those, especially widows (whether on fixed incomes or not), wanting to live within their means. An unbalanced checkbook is unsettling.

On the other hand, when a gift check is cashed in a timely fashion and no thank you is forthcoming, the reminder is one of thoughtlessness, lack of appreciation, not to mention bad manners.

Most elders can’t hop in a car any longer and drive to the mall to find that perfect gift. They may not order gifts online…may not use technology.

And if they don’t use technology, they can’t receive thank you emails. In the US and other countries where going paperless is gaining popularity in many schools and businesses, perhaps it becomes even easier to forget the value of sending a thank you, unless it’s by email or text.

That said, the cell phone is ubiquitious. And the only thing older people love–after being with children and grandchildren and those they care about–is hearing from them. Indeed, a timely phone call with a from-the-heart THANK YOU coming through the earpiece–be it a tiny little voice, or the mature voice of a very appreciative adult–can do wonders to lift the spirits of older people.

Related ideas:  This mother has taken care of THANK YOU for her young son with this email that includes a short video of her son and the gift.

I hear from a grandmother that her daughter takes a picture of her son with his gift and sends the photo to the gift-giver with a thank you note on the back. She writes THANK YOU and her son, now 5, writes “love” and his name below.

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities. respected professionals and selected publications–to help parents age well.

One thought on “Aging Parents: Are Thank You’s Obsolete?

  1. Susan, Just read your blog for today. What a good reminder! I have to say for me that I detest writing thank you notes. Also the words flow freely – I’m a good talker – because of my dyslexia, I inevitably write at least one or two words backwards on every note by write. Thanks goodness for the computer! Now I am not throwing out endless error-filled notecards. I write it on the computer, prove it, correct it, and send it. While there may still be in error. at least they’re fewer. Best to you, DD

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