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by Abigail Van Buren

Practical Gifts for Seniors Are Better Than More Stuff

DEAR ABBY: I foolishly tossed out your column on what to give seniors for Christmas, thinking I knew what to give my parents. However, this summer I married a man several years older than myself, and now I could use some suggestions about what I can buy for my elderly in-laws. This is my first Christmas in the family, and I want to be sure to give them something they can use and enjoy. Help! -- MELISSA IN MINGO JUNCTION, OHIO

DEAR MELISSA: I'm pleased to help.

When buying gifts for seniors, keep in mind that most seniors have more than their share of dusting powder and aftershave, and have run out of room for bud vases and bird feeders. Some practical alternatives:

-- Postcards or lined stationery with a generous supply of postage stamps.

-- A gift certificate for their favorite grocery store, deli or pharmacy.

-- An assortment of greeting cards for birthdays and anniversaries, as well as get-well and condolence cards.

-- A "paid in advance" certificate for 10 lawn mowings or snow shovelings by a neighborhood youngster.

-- A "certificate" for a service you can perform that is difficult for them -- a thorough house cleaning, a month's laundry, a handyman visit for home safety inspection and minor repairs.

-- An offer to rewrite their address book in large, more legible print.

-- A month of Sunday drives to church, or to the country, the museum or the park.

-- If the person on your list is on a limited income, a check in any amount will be appreciated.

-- A subscription to their favorite magazine or the daily newspaper.

-- A basket of goodies assembled especially for them: cans of ham, tuna, chicken, hearty soups, chili and stew; instant coffee and tea bags; crackers; instant soup mixes.

-- A selection of their treasured, tattered photos retouched and placed into a new album, with captions.

-- A drive to see the Christmas lights and decorations, as well as store windows.

If a senior says, "Please don't give me anything," that usually means, "I have more things than I need." However, a gift of your time will be appreciated and remembered long after the holiday has passed and the material gifts are stored away. Trust me.

DEAR ABBY: I have lived in a sexless marriage for almost 25 years. Shortly after our marriage, my husband told me that since we didn't plan to raise a family, there was no need to have sexual relations. He said he didn't like to get hot and sweaty.

A few days ago, I ran across a prescription bottle of -- you guessed it -- Viagra. I know he's not using it for my benefit. Should I confront him about it? I have thought sex was a dead issue for my entire married life, and this really distresses me. -- CAROL IN SMALLTOWN, MO.

DEAR CAROL: You have good reason to be distressed. Although you thought sex was a dead issue for your entire married life, it appears there has been a resurrection. Your husband owes you an explanation.

Everybody has a problem. What's yours? Get it off your chest by writing to Dear Abby, P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069. For a personal reply, please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

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