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Elderly care and loneliness at Christmas

Not everyone has family or friends to spend Christmas with and lots of elderly people the 25th of December is just another day. In the UK, over half of the elderly aged 75 and above live alone. Many elderly people don’t have children or family living nearby and often they only have contact with their children over FaceTime or phone calls, instead of a visit in person.

More than 250,000 people aged 75 and over aren’t looking forward to Christmas

This year the problem of loneliness at Christmas will also be compounded by the numerous lockdown measures that are being rolled out around the country. Christmas 2020 could be a rather different festive celebration for a lot of people.

For many… Christmas is just another day

Age UK’s 2017 Christmas campaign video has a very poignant message…

During the holidays and especially at festive times, loneliness can be amplified by the lack of having anyone to spend time with. According to Age UK, nearly a million elderly people feel more lonely at Christmas. And out of those, 40% are alone after their husband or wife has died.

Choosing to spend Christmas alone when in your thirties, because you want some time out, is very different to being alone in your eighties and are suffering from chronic loneliness.

Don’t forget Christmas day is one day when everything closes

Many elderly people will have a set routine throughout the week which often involves going to a public space for that little bit of social contact. It might be popping down to the café for lunch, wandering round the shopping centre or visiting the local library. Over Christmas, most of these places are closed which can mean even more isolation for those that depend on some social interaction. A short conversation with a shop keeper could be the only person they speak to all day.

Unfortunately, communities are not as strong as they used to be – which means many elderly people can go weeks without speaking to a friend or a relative.

Although the statistics look bleak, there isn’t a shortage of people who want to help. As we have seen during lockdown, communities do come together to support each other.

How you can help

For those that want to help support the elderly and ensure that no one is alone, there are a number of national charities that welcome volunteers.

Age UK friendship Services

UK operate a number of friendship services that involves calling an elderly person at a set time every week for a chat – much like talking to a relative or a friend. It is a nationwide service and people are matched by interests so that they have things to talk about.

More info – https://www.ageuk.org.uk/services/befriending-services/ 

Reengage Community Christmas

Community Christmas is an online directory of local festive activities taking place across the UK and are open to local older, vulnerable people who would otherwise be spending Christmas Day alone.

You can register any activity or event that brings older people comfort and joy and makes the day special. They are encouraging anyone of any age who will be alone on Christmas Day to use their directory to find something in their area they can go to.

Reengage are also offering a call companion to any older person who is feeling alone at this difficult time and would like a regular chat over the phone from one of their friendly volunteers throughout the festive season and beyond.

More info – https://www.reengage.org.uk/support-us/community-christmas/

Royal Voluntary Service

Possibly the most well-known voluntary service, RVS operates year-round but also requires additional support over Christmas. RVS offers a wide range of services from companionship for people in the hospital and visiting elderly people in their homes, to exercise classes and community sheds.

As a volunteer, you could be a pair of hands in someone’s garden, a friendly face for a patient in hospital, helping to run a yoga club, chatting to someone in their own language… Whatever your “something special” is, they will help you match it with their volunteering opportunity that’s right for you.

More info – https://volunteering.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/volunteering

Practical things you can do to help

Even without joining an organisation, there are many things you can do in your own community to support the elderly and to ensure that they are included at Christmas:

Short stay care at Christmas

Friary Care keeps a room in each of its Weymouth residential care homes for people who would benefit from a short stay. This can be for people who need a little extra support whilst recovering from an illness or operation and can be for one week or a few months. Short stay care can also be arranged if you live alone to allow you to continue to live independently. It might also be an opportunity to get to know a particular care home that suits your needs if you are thinking about permanent care.

During a stay with us, no matter whether it’s simply for a few days or even longer, each client is gently encouraged to join the rest of our residents and take part in the daily festivities.