10 Experienced-Based Gifts for People with Chronic Illness

Do you have someone on your gift list who has a chronic illness, such as rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis? Consider giving them an experience-based gift that they'll be talking about for many seasons to come. Our homes are packed with more stuff than ever before. A gift of a fun experience helps alleviate the cleaning and organizing headaches that often accompany a physical gift. They can provide a range of benefits from building memories to improving fitness, providing fodder for conversations, preventing isolation, and so much more.

People at music concert.

Gifts for the music lover

“One good thing about music: When it hits you, you feel no pain,” said Bob Marley. No pain is a great gift for someone that lives with chronic pain. Consider:

  • An evening out to a live show, whether it be in a concert hall, a community center, or a night club. Offer to do the driving.
  • A gift certificate to a recording studio that features live performances, or to a site like Ticketmaster.
  • Check Groupon and community colleges for voice or music lessons, if you hear an “I wish I could sing/play..."
Man at sporting event in stadium.

Gifts for the fitness buff/sports nut

For a large part of my 40 years with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), I was able to participate in a number of physical activities. A well-managed chronic illness doesn't necessarily mean inactivity. Try these gifts:

  • Choose from a multitude of community center events, including all types of dance, strength-training, bocce ball, bowling, yoga, even fencing.
  • A gift certificate for part of a gym membership.
  • Tickets to a sporting event.
  • Organize a sporting event for all of your friends and family.
Glamping tent.

Gifts for the outdoor enthusiast/adventurer

Maybe some adventurous activities are currently out of range for your giftee. Dependent on ability, and the possibility of modifications, there's a rainbow of choices to be made:

  • Day pass to a state or national park.
  • An elegant weekend glamping.
  • Indoor rock climbing lesson.
  • Plane simulator. My husband still talks about his birthday gift — a chance to fly a DC10 simulator, which pilots use for training.
  • Lessons for scuba, snorkeling, sailing, etc.
  • Set up a treasure hunt like geocaching.
People bird watching.

Gifts for the ecologist/naturalist

If someone on your list is passionate about nature, feed that passion by choosing ecologically-friendly gifts such as:

Garden in the park.

Gifts for the gardener

Give the gift of garden inspiration:

  • Make arrangements to go on a garden tour when your community hosts one.
  • Purchase a lesson from a Master Gardener.
  • A gift certificate for the entrance fee to a community garden.
  • Organize a day out which includes tours of nurseries. Don't forget about lunch.
Women laughing and painting outside.

Gifts for the artist

Whether a seasoned or budding artist, or simply an admirer, you can deepen the experience with these tempting gifts:

  • Arrange a visit to your community's art gallery.
  • I once purchased acting lessons from Groupon. It was a fun, and yes, sometimes nerve-wracking, experience.
  • Whatever the medium, there's a palette's worth of lessons available, either privately, or through a college, or community center.
  • Tickets to a juried art show.
  • A visit to some commercial galleries. Include lunch!
Observatory at night.

Gifts for the intellectual

The book lover, the perpetual learner, the scientist, the debater — whatever the interest, there's usually an opportunity for them:

  • Get tickets to a lecture series at a university, college, or library.
  • Accompany your giftee to an author talk, which is often free.
  • Take in an event at a planetarium or science center.
Happy people at a cooking class.

Gifts for the cook/foodie

We all have to eat, and the cook, or foodie, takes great delight in sourcing out, preparing, serving, and eating food. Here are some gifts to drool over:

  • Cooking classes that run the gamut from appetizers to desserts, ethnic to organic.
  • Chocolate-tasting event.
  • Wine-tasting.
  • Bartending school.
  • Farm/orchard/vineyard visit.
  • Host a dinner party. After all, it's nice to be on the receiving end.
  • Dinner at a restaurant that you know they'll love.
Students in a woodworking class.

Gifts for the hobbyist/handyman/woman

Some people love to putter. There are light-weight tools available that can make things easier for the person whose mobility may be compromised. Consider:

  • Purchasing a session from an occupational therapist who can help them make the most of their abilities. Throw in some arthritis-friendly tools to round out the gift.
  • Hiring an expert to spend time teaching a new skill.
  • Going on a shopping trip to gather items that the hobbyist/handyman/woman needs for their particular project.
Funny photo of a dog wearing a robe enjoying a cocktail.

Other gift ideas and final thoughts

Amateur sleuths: Organize a game night, using one of the murder mystery games that are available for purchase.

My friend knew that I couldn't look after my nails post-surgery, so she generously gave me a gift certificate to a spa.

Miniature or historic train trip. A steamboat, sailboat, or Jet Ski ride.

Final thoughts:

  • Listen for hints, desires, and challenges.
  • Build a relationship while doing something together.
  • Consider transportation requirements, ability, and energy needs.
  • Have fun!
Marianna Paulson, B.Ed., B.P.E.-O.R.
Meet Our Writer
Marianna Paulson, B.Ed., B.P.E.-O.R.

Marianna Paulson is known as AuntieStress. On her Auntie Stress website, you’ll find links to her two award-winning blogs, Auntie Stress Café and A Rheumful of Tips. When she is not helping clients (and herself) address stress, she keeps active by swimming, walking, and taking frequent dance breaks. She takes steps in a number of different directions in order to work on being a “Superager.” She may have RA, but it doesn’t have her! “Choose to be optimistic. It feels better.” - Dalai Lama XIV