My mom has had a set of Wustof Classic for the past 15 years and has abused the crap out of them. And with the occasional sharpening, they've done very well for her.
As a professional cook, I have two separate sets of knives, the ones I use everyday, and the ones I keep sharp all the time, and don't get banged around everyday. The ones I use everyday are the ones that I got from cooking school, the whole set, including a whole set of baking tools-which probably cost about half-and the total was about 300 dollars. I have no idea what the brand is.
My good set, including Pablo (my 10 inch Chef's knife) was a present from my parents, and consists of a small paring knife, a boning knife, the 10 inch chef's knife, a utility knife, and a bread/serrated knife. This is my Wustof Classic set, and I take immaculate care of them. They ended up costing about 450 dollars.
I would get her these basics:
Chef's knife-probably 8 inches
paring knife-3 1/2 inches
bread/serrated knife- 8-10 inches
Those will cover just about everything she might need. Now the boning and utility knifes are very nice to have, but not really necessary.
I have to tell you, on my wish list for Christmas is a Wustof Classic Santoku with hollow ground ovals, which runs about $90. That is just icing on the cake for my set.
Don't get me wrong though, my Wusthofs have been used and abused, and I would like to make them last forever, so that's why I use my cheaper set on a day to day basis.
Oh! I almost forgot kitchen shears, I have a Wusthof pair and they're used everyday, because they weren't nearly as expensive as the knives. But they are still fantastic.
Anyway, I love Wusthofs, but Henckels and Globals are pretty awesome too. I would say that they will all last at least one lifetime with some decent TLC.
Good luck, I hope this helped a little!!