It can be challenging to know what kind of Valentine’s Day gift will truly feel meaningful to your senior loved ones.

Of course, chocolate and flowers will never go out of style. But a study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships shows that most of us agree: Positive behavioral actions (what we do) are what make us feel most loved.

It turns out these don’t have to be grandiose gifts or actions, either. In fact, small gestures top the list.

Here are four categories of ways to make your senior loved one feel adored on Valentine’s Day or any time of year.

Spend Time with Your Parents

Our top Valentine’s Day gift idea for making your elderly parents feel loved: Spend time together. Quality time ranked high in this study for what makes any of us feel loved—and the results show that time with our children in particular ranks even higher. Not to mention, the importance of connecting with your parents increases with age: social isolation and loneliness carry serious consequences.

Make them feel cherished by initiating some one on one time together that’s focused on connection rather than caregiving. Some ideas include treating them to brunch, scheduling a community art class to take together, joining them to complete a jigsaw puzzle, or simply sitting with them doing whatever they’re feeling up for that day.

Show Them You Accept Them

It’s no surprise, but this study showed that feeling genuinely accepted goes a long way in making all of us feel loved. Your senior loved one will appreciate any way you can meet them where they are and adapt to the changes and challenges that invariably come with aging.

Perhaps they’re experiencing more social anxiety around larger gatherings, but you know it means a lot to them to see their grandchildren. What if you spread out a few 1:1 dates with each grandkid? This might reduce overwhelm, while still giving them the Valentine’s Day gift of togetherness.

Cheer Them on to Reach a Goal

This study showed that feeling supported to reach our life goals makes us feel loved. Find out what your senior loved one wants to accomplish. How can you show your support?

Did you hear dad say he wants to finally learn to paint? Show you believe in him with a fresh set of brushes. Know mom wants to finish that book she started writing years ago? Give her your vote of confidence with a blank journal or an upgraded computer setup.

Treat Them to Physical Affection

As signals of love go, this study suggests that physical affection ranks high for most of us. In fact, another study published by the Oxford University Press links physical touch not only to lower blood pressure and higher oxytocin levels but even a lower likelihood of inflammation.

Give your elderly parents the gift of physical affection for Valentine’s Day. This can be as simple as making sure time spent together includes touch, like a hug from you or snuggles from the grandchildren. You might also consider treating them to a professional self-care service, like a therapeutic massage or an appointment at a nice hair salon (the kind that includes a delicious scalp massage).

Next Steps

It turns out that positive behavioral actions (what we do) are what make any of us feel most loved.

When it comes to Valentine’s Day gift ideas for your senior loved ones, the most meaningful gifts are the small gestures: time spent together, unconditional acceptance, supporting their goals, and physical affection.

If you could use support with your senior loved one, we’re always available to help. Feel free to call us at 855-461-2552, or send us a message, anytime.