The intricate tabletop version of a carousel is one of the nicest gifts Gladys Marshall can remember getting for Christmas, but her friend Barbara Lyons wouldn't want to find it under her own tree.
Not all seniors like knickknacks.
"If you're giving me that, you'll have to send somebody along to dust it," said Lyons, 62, of Tyrone. She said those tiny things are nice only when your grandchildren make them for you, and then they're treasures.
Lyons and Marshall, of Damascus, illustrate that seniors have differing tastes when it comes to Christmas and Hanukkah presents. Some like practical things, and others like to be indulged at holidays. Some would rather get money or a gift certificate, and others want to know the giver put some time and thought into choosing the gift.
Others, such as Dick Daniel, 58, of Finksburg and Charles Blizzard, 56, of Westminster, want more ethereal things.
"Bring our boys back from the Middle East," Blizzard said. That's a present only President George Bush can give.
"I think maybe a personal visit, going to see people and inviting them over or to go out to dinner is nice," Daniel said.
"Just the good fellowship of having people over, being with people and being a part of things. Gifts are nice, too, but it doesn't have to be a great expensive thing," Daniel said. "It's the thought that counts."
Whatever category your senior friend or relative falls into, there are a number of presents they're bound to appreciate.
"Money is always right. The price is right, the size is right and the color is right," said Dorothy Billet, 62, of Westminster. She wouldn't mind at all if you didn't drag yourself all over the mall looking for her present.
"I'd rather have a gift," said Hazel Warner, the craft instructor at the Westminster Senior Center, who would say only that she is "over 60."
Warner likes to get jewelry, even though she already has loads of it, she said. She doesn't worry about what people pick out for her, as her family and friends know her taste. She also likes to get craft materials.
Not one to dust off knickknacks, Lyons would rather be on the go.
"Tickets to the theater and things like that are terrific gifts," she said. "I love live theater or dinner theater."
Make sure to buy two to four tickets for the event, so the person can take friends, Lyons said.
She also had a more practical idea.
"This sounds like a dumb present, but it isn't. A tool box and tools," she said. A small one -- not too heavy -- that can be easily carried around the house comes in handy for fixing loose screws, hanging pictures or putting up curtains, she said. A woman she knows has a small drill she uses to hang pictures.
"That way she doesn't have to make an appointment with her husband to do it," she said.
Dorothy Hubatka of Finksburg said she was quite disappointed two years ago when her husband gave her a hand-held vacuum for Christmas.
"I let him think I was really pleased, but inside I thought, 'What a dumb thing to buy me,' " she said.
"Now, I use it all the time. Marvelous gift," she said.
"We don't need any DustBusters -- we still like pretty clothes," said Dorothy Ebaugh, 65, of Westminster, and other friends who heard Hubatka rave over her appliance.
Ebaugh said she and her daughter buy clothes for each other every Christmas.
"I'm picking them out, and she's paying for them," Ebaugh said.
Hubatka said one of her most inspired ideas for a gift was a box of frozen, high-quality steaks.
She just went to a local supermarket and asked the butcher to cut four especially nice filets mignon, which cost her about $20. She froze them before giving them to the couple she bought them for, so that they could use them when they wanted.
Elizabeth and James Oliver, both 54 and living in Silver Run, had to think for a while when asked what presents they would enjoy.
"I have everything I need," James said.
But the couple perked up when their friend told them about the new bread-making machines that mix, knead, raise and bake the loaf. You just put in the ingredients and check back in about four hours. The machines range from $120 to more than $200.
Both Olivers were intrigued by the idea, as they both like her homemade bread. James said he loves it fresh-baked.
"I would much rather bake my own bread than go out and buy it," Elizabeth said.
Whatever the gift, it's best to deliver it in person. As Daniel said, most seniors enjoy a good visit from a friend or relative as much as anything that comes in a box.
Here are more ideas from Sharon Baker, Ann Allen and Brenda Lerner, who all work at the Carroll County Department of Aging:
* Smoke detectors.
* Passes to use at a local pool, golf course or health club.
* Tickets -- maybe even a season pass -- to the Orioles, Redskins, Terrapins, Bullets, Capitals or other favorite team.