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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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 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, dog 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