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A subscription box that keeps on giving

November 30, 2015
by Nicole Stempak, Associate Editor
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Kyle Ems wanted to do something more for his aging relatives, but he couldn’t find the time.

“After visiting a home-bound great aunt, my wife and I discussed how we would love to be able to send our elderly family and friends something once a month just to let them know we were thinking about them,” Ems says. “Both of us were working full time and did not have the time or energy to send a thoughtful care package with regularity.”

“At holidays, we found ourselves asking, ‘What and where do I get a meaningful gift for someone who asks for nothing?’ We asked friends, and they struggled with the same challenges.”

In 2014, Ems quit his marketing job for an e-commerce company and made gift-giving his full-time venture. Senior Care Box is a monthly subscription box designed specifically for people age 65 and older. The company’s mission is to strengthen connections between senders and recipients and to create a community of recipients who connect through shared memories.

 “We want to be thoughtful gifts that are made easy,” Ems told Long-Term Living. “I thought with a subscription, all you have to do is check out one time, and we’ll take care of the rest. It’s a convenience to the customer as well.”

Loved ones can choose a one, three, six or 12-month subscription. There’s also a corporate gift option. Ems tries to fill boxes with types of products that would appeal to an older demographic. He’s researched popular candy brands from the 1930s and 1950s to see what was popular.

“I’ve always tried to have a good mix of things that stimulate the mind: something to snack on, something that smells good, what are the types of things I see around my grandparents’ houses,” Ems says. “I wouldn’t put anything in there that I would not give to my family.”

Reminiscence therapy is thought to help people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia because it allows people with memory loss to recall and talk about the past, which may make them feel more comfortable in possibly unfamiliar surroundings.

Each box is filled with at least five items, including old-fashioned candies, home decor, a puzzle (jigsaw or crossword), skin care (lotion or lip balm) and something seasonal. There’s also a diabetic option with sugar-free products.

What makes the box special is it includes a historical photo each month — a boy raking leaves or girls in a classroom or a man delivering milk — and a pre-addressed postcard for recipients to share memories conjured by the photo. Ems includes their responses in the following month’s box.  

“I thought it would be neat to be able to capture the lives of all those different people that contributed to what’s helped make our country so great,” Ems says. He wanted family members to see the stories their loved ones submitted, so a couple days after he ships out the boxes, he posts the stories online. “It’s a real easy conversation starter when the next time they give them a call.”

Ems wants the gift boxes to be a way for senior loved ones to know they’re thought about each month. Those boxes are shipping to home-bound loved ones and to assisted living facilities, usually from a relative who is far away.

“I have a lot of family members that have said to me, ‘We think this is a great idea. We’re glad that this is available’ because it helps keep them connected on a regular basis,” he says. “I think a lot of people have benefitted from the greatest generation, and it’s a great opportunity to do something unique for them.”