I have Lifeline's Portable Gym, which is very handy on business trips (thankfully, I don't have too many). But for someone just starting to get back in shape, I am not sure any equipment is really necessary. Like others have said--go for a walk, do the stairs, some body weight stuff--there are almost endless options for workouts that don't require equipment.
While motivation is key, I find that people get tripped up by making things to complicated. I have people ask me about gym memberships, this or that piece of equipment or workout program, etc. Since most, if not all. of these folks are fairly out of shape, I usually advise them to find something simple, inexpensive and enjoyable enough to do fairly regularly.