Retirement Gift Ideas & Celebration Ideas During a Pandemic

For many, retirement is the end of a lifelong career—the achievement of service and dedication to one or many companies across the years. Others experience retirement as the beginning of a new era, a chance to pursue old passions or new dreams. Regardless, retirement is an accomplishment worth celebrating among co-workers, friends, and family. But in the midst of our current reality—a global coronavirus pandemic, nationwide shelter-in-place orders, and social distancing measures—how do you genuinely and enthusiastically celebrate your co-worker or loved one? If nothing else, 2021 continues to present us with opportunities to get creative in our approach to celebrations and gift-giving. This is especially the case with retirement gift ideas since you don’t want the celebration of a special career to be short-changed. Don’t put the needed celebration on hold quite yet! Instead, it’s time to celebrate retirement with creativity and style.

Host a Virtual Retirement Surprise Party

It’s time to host one final work Zoom call. Whether your workplace is spread across the country, globe, or all in the same city, Zoom is not just your tool for work meetings, but also virtual hangouts and party celebrations. Work with your retiree’s spouse or family to organize a surprise party via Zoom. Convince your co-worker that there is one more thing to discuss before they officially retire, and surprise them by showing up with party hats and retirement decorations on every screen.

To make it a true party, organize some games that can be played via video call. Play retirement themed Pictionary, making some of the categories related to office jokes that the retiree will appreciate. Or create a new version of Drink Talk Learn where everyone gets three minutes to share their favorite funny story about the retiree. At the end, everyone has to vote on their favorite. Create some retirement-themed awards for the winners.

Don’t forget to share your favorite sentimental stories about the retiree as well. This is a great opportunity to congratulate them on past successes and achievements, highlighting their personal impact on the company. Take a moment to recall some of the projects they helped complete, and some of the ways the company has changed over the years, emphasizing your co-worker’s role throughout those transitions.

And definitely don’t forget the cake and champagne. Make sure your retiree’s family or spouse surprises them with a retirement cake and champagne during the call so everyone can sing, cheer, and celebrate together. There’s nothing quite like enjoying a toast and cake while your co-workers virtually celebrate your retirement.

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Put Your Mug on a Mug

We can all use a good laugh right about now. What better way to bring cheer to your retiring co-worker than to give them a reminder of what—or who, rather—they will be missing in the office? Customize coffee mugs (we love options available at Newlywords, but we’re not biased) with a photo of each co-worker. That’s right, stick your mug on a mug and shower your retiree with a gift that will make them laugh each morning. You may not be able to throw a retirement party at this time, but you can make your co-worker feel special, and guarantee they will never forget your face.

Gravity Forms Swag

Shower Them with Office Swag

If coffee mugs with faces on them aren’t your style, check out to get ideas for other fun (and entertainingly useless) brand-related gifts you can give. The goal is to never let them forget the workplace. Put together a collection of branded tote bags, shirts with funny work quotes, photos of colleagues, and far more pens than they could ever use. Have a virtual brainstorm session with your team to come up with funny sayings or your retiree’s favorite quotes. This is an opportunity for a little lighthearted retirement and office humor. Retirement gift ideas should be fun, right?

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Film a Video Montage

Video montages are a great way to collect the thoughts, photos, and encouragement of friends and family all in one place. Tools like VidHug make it even easier to organize and create an incredible video montage that includes everyone from co-workers to grandkids. VidHug allows you to send an invitation to anyone on your list. They record a video clip of themselves on any device and the VidHug team compiles a movie to present at your virtual retirement party. This is a great option for teams that are scattered around the country and for those who may not be able to make it to a virtual retirement party. Make sure everyone on your team gets a chance to share their words of support and encouragement for the retiree. And for those who have a tech-savvy team member, have fun creating a unique video with your entire staff offering up words of wisdom.

Travel Gift Pack

Get Them Travel-Ready

Retirement often presents opportunities to travel and visit family, new places, and simply explore the globe. If your co-worker has travel plans that have been put on hold because of COVID-19, you can still celebrate their retirement with travel-related gifts and inspiration. Get them travel ready with travel books for their first planned destination. Or better yet, consider putting together your own book of travel advice and thoughts. Have everyone from work share their best piece of advice or one of their favorite travel mishaps. Turn it into a collection with photos of each co-worker alongside their thoughts and travel tips.

How to sell books on Amazon: stack of books and a yellow mug in front of a wall

Say Happy Retirement With a Good Book

Does your loved one or co-worker love books? Help them start retirement with a collection of new books to add to their reading list. Have everyone at the office—as well as family and friends—each send a book with a personal note to celebrate their retirement date. If you aren’t sure what books your co-worker would love, make a list of all your favorite books from the past few years. Send one that speaks to their new season, their hobbies, or simply something fun that they can read in the garden this summer. Still not sure about the perfect book? Check out Amazon’s favorite books of the month or have everyone from work pick a different genre so the retiree is surprised with a smattering of new reading material.

The ‘High School Musical’ Cast Had A Zoom Reunion ‘Coz We Really Are All In This Together

Go Crazy and Assemble a Workplace Musical Number

COVID-19 and current stay-at-home orders have sparked an outpouring of digital innovation. Museums are providing virtual tours, opera houses are live-streaming performances, and the cast of Hamilton even jumped on Zoom to perform for a young fan. We may not all be as musically talented as the cast of Hamilton, but for workplace teams that want to get creative, your office can join the fun by creating a live or recorded retirement performance unlike any other! Invite the retiree onto Zoom (or any other group video chat tool) to experience co-workers performing a favorite musical number, a spoken word poem about the retiree, or any number of fun (and funny) performances. You don’t have to be talented to make everyone laugh and have a good time. Have fun, get creative, and spread the joy of celebrating retirement together, even when you are cities or states apart.

Example Memory Book

Organize a Retirement Memory Book

Photo books and memory books last a lifetime and allow you to share some of the best moments in your retiree’s career. Working together as a team—with both co-workers and family members—collect photos, thoughts, quotes, and memories to create a collection that will be a treasured retirement gift. If collating and organizing photos and emails from people all over the country sounds complicated, stick to incredible digital tools like Newlywords. Instead of managing emails and photos from work friends and family, you can send an invitation to everyone involved using the Newlywords platform. Invitees then add their memories straight to the platform and the Newlywords team helps you create a gorgeous memory book. One of the most beloved retirement gift ideas is a book filled with words of affirmation and cherished memories from friends throughout the years.

What are retirement gift ideas for someone who loves to travel?

retirement party gift atlas
The thing about retirement is now the retiree has all the free time in the world. And now that they’ve worked so hard and gotten so far, it’s obviously time for them to get to see the world. So invest in an atlas and bring to the party as a gift. Have coworkers, colleagues, friends and family sign it, marking pages with locations they would like to recommend the retiree visit now that they’re no longer obligated to go to work.

You might be thinking a globe would work better, but it’s harder to pack a globe in luggage. If they’re really travel-inclined, they might already be planning a trip themselves, but why not give them more ideas?

Alternatively, you could ask everyone to contribute their post-retirement travel suggestions in a hard-bound retirement memory book. Coworkers would share their travel suggestions and accompanying pictures by contributing online before the retirement party. Afterwards, you reveal this compilation of personalized travel tips as a group gift at the party!

Collaborate on a bucket list for an unforgettable group gift

birthday wish box 1

You’ve heard of bucket lists, but if you’ve worked with buckets long, you’ve figured out that they’re a little difficult to store neatly. So, whether you’re planning a birthday, anniversary or retirement party, consider a wish box! A personalized wooden box, like those bought here, is relatively easy to get your hands on, and moderately easy to make yourself. You can buy bucket list cards over here for guests to fill out and drop in the box for later storage.

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If everyone fills out an idea or two, that should keep the honoree(s) busy for quite a while. But more importantly, it’s easy to tuck a box away in a cabinet or in your luggage than it is a box. Make it waterproof and it will even survive a disastrous fishing trip, or a slightly too wild cruise.

If you want to gift something even more neatly bound, organize a collaborative memory book. Unlike a wish box, folks contribute wishes online before the party so that they have more time to think of what to write. This also works well if some people are unable to attend your event!

Five retirement party planning ideas

A colleague’s retirement can be a sentimental time. After all, it is the closing of one chapter and the embarking of another.

When planning your colleague’s retirement party, you’ll want to make sure it is fun and memorable. You should also focus on the happy, productive times they’ve had during their career. Consider the following tips to ensure the party is a success.

1. Unconventional Venues

Sometimes it’s easier to keep the venue in the office, but at other times you may want to bring the party elsewhere, such as to a restaurant or relaxing venue. Be flexible when determining the date, and make sure it’s at a time and place when all guests and colleagues can attend. If your guests might appreciate an unconventional setting for the retirement part, just make sure it’s something the retiree will enjoy. How about an art gallery space if they love art, or rent out an entire movie theater room for the evening, for your guests, or–if you can pull it off–an airport hangar if they are avid travelers.

2. Toast and Speeches

To honor the retiree, you can ask a few people to share memories and heartfelt thanks through a short, genuine speech. You could also play a PowerPoint video to showcase milestones and events throughout the years. Anyone from former bosses to family members would be suitable for giving a speech at the retirement party. Just remember to give the guests adequate time to plan their speeches prior to the event. If you know anyone who is a member of Toastmasters Club, an international public speakers and communicators club, it could be a wonderful, professional addition. Check this site, Retirement Quotes, for sample speech templates you can use for creating your own speeches.

3. Retirement Memory Books

Plan this one in advance: Ask everyone to contribute a retirement wish or share a story about the retiree. This retirement memory book is like a huge group scrapbook to be treasured forever. Set up the online collection page, give your guests the link so they can share their pictures and messages, and have it printed and mailed to you to gift at the retirement party as the ultimate group gift.

4. Themed Playlist

Quite a few songs will work for the “retirement” and “relaxation” theme of your event. If your guests are game for ad-lib performances, you could even make karaoke a lively part of the entertainment. Some of the songs you might choose are:

  • “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen
  • “Hit the Road, Jack” by Ray Charles
  • “When I am 64” by the Beatles
  • “Young at Heart” by Doris Day and Frank Sinatra
  • “Vacation” by the GoGos
  • “V A C A T I O N” by Connie Francis
  • “Leaving on a Jet Plane” by Peter, Paul and Mary

Of course, you could also prepare a playlist of your celebrant’s favorite songs. To make things easier, here are a couple of retirement song playlists from Spotify and 8tracks.

5. Fun Dress-Up Party

Another twist on fun parties is asking guests to come dressed in something that reminds them of the retiree or celebrant. Maybe people will come as the celebrant’s favorite actor, or what they wanted to be when they grew up (airplane pilot), or themes based on their favorite travels (think summer in Italy!). The options here are endless. Pinterest has plenty of visuals for costume ideas, if your guests need help with originality and creativity.

There are many ways to send off that special colleague into retirement. With a little advance planning and creativity, you can make it a retirement party that he/she will never forget!