The festive season is not always fun, lively and sociable. Guest blogger Ella Hendrix has some advice for us all on preventing loneliness this Christmas.
For most, Christmas is a magical time of year where you get to relax, spend time with family, and enjoy the festive celebrations. People travel all across the country and world, to be with their loved ones on Christmas. But for some people, loneliness and isolation at Christmas are a massive issue.
According to Age UK up to 1 million elderly people feel lonely during the festive period. Unfortunately, loneliness is now such a major problem among the elderly, that national campaigns have been launched to help ensure that vulnerable people have someone to share the holidays with.
Causes of loneliness at Christmas
It’s easy to forget that the family-orientated holiday season can be the loneliest time for people with no relatives. One of the biggest issues for seniors is that their social circles gradually shrink, with family members and friends moving away or passing away, as the years go by. Even those who still live nearby may be inaccessible due to limited mobility, especially once someone can no longer drive safely.
Age UK estimates that around 873,000 elderly people don’t see or hear from anyone for days at a time over the festive period. Shockingly, two fifths of all seniors admit that the television is their main company. This lack of communication results in elderly people feeling isolated, lonely, and uninvolved. During Christmas there is an enormous focus on family gatherings, social events, and having the perfect Christmas, and so these feelings are intensified.
Campaign to End Loneliness
The government has introduced a new campaign to tackle the stigma of loneliness and offer support to vulnerable people across the UK. The campaign involves a number of projects aimed at – highlighting the issue of loneliness, reaching and supporting people at risk, and developing a wider range of services and activities to address loneliness.
The Prime Minister has stated that “loneliness is one of the greatest public health challenges of our time”, with research linking it to a number of serious health problems including, cardiovascular disease and depression. According to research by Campaign to End Loneliness “every £1 invested in loneliness, can save £3 in health costs.” As part of the long-term plan for the NHS, funding will be provided to connect patients to a variety of social activities, to help improve seniors quality of life, and reduce the demand on the NHS.
Things you can do to help
It doesn’t take much to stop people feeling alone and there are plenty of things you can do to help tackle loneliness this Christmas. Some ideas include:
- Have a chat – If you’re passing an elderly person, then say hello. Taking the time to talk will really make a difference to someone who is lonely – it might be the only communication they’ve had all day.
- Give a neighbour a card – visit your neighbour and give them a Christmas card. This is a great way to have a conversation and start a connection.
- Offer to help – Daily household chores can be particularly tiring for elderly people. If you have the time, then why not offer to help out – even just taking the bins out can be a great source of relief. This kind gesture, along with the social interaction, will help someone feel less alone.
- Volunteer – Organisations that support the elderly are always looking for volunteers, especially over the Christmas period. If you have spare time, then volunteering is a great way to support vulnerable people in your area; this is a rewarding experience and one of the best ways to combat loneliness. Mareta, a carer at Helping Hands explains how “giving time to those who need support is something truly special.”
- Provide a hot meal – Cooking can be a difficult task for elderly people and research has found that seniors often skip meals. Making an extra portion of food is an easy and inexpensive way to help out.
- Invite the neighbors – If you’re hosting a Christmas party, then invite your neighbours and see if there’s anyone in your community who would like to come along – the more the merrier!
- Spare chair – If you know of an elderly person spending Christmas alone and you have a spare chair, then invite them round for Christmas dinner.
Christmas is a joyous time for family to get together and enjoy the celebrations. However, it’s important to remember that there are people who aren’t as fortunate, and will be spending the holidays alone. Christmas is a great time for us to connect with each other and so spread a little cheer, and make someone’s Christmas, by reaching out to support anyone who’s feeling lonely this Winter.
Ella Hendrix is a versatile freelance writer, currently covering articles on family psychology, elderly care children’s behaviour. In her spare time, you will find her head in a book or sipping on a peppermint tea.