Christmas. A time for family, joy and festivities. A time for sharing gifts, laughter and food. A time for being
surrounded by your closest friends and loved ones.
Sadly, not for everyone.
Many elderly people across the nation are forced to endure the Christmas period alone. If they do not have family or close friends and with bus services not running on Christmas day, many are stranded with nowhere to go but to stay at home.
This issue was highlighted last year, through the highly anticipated John Lewis Christmas advert. Each year viewers across the nation eagerly await the appearance of Christmas adverts, ready to scrutinize and judge their favourite festive endorsement. While John Lewis often comes up trumps, last year they used their platform to not only promote themselves but also highlight a bigger issue, the isolation of those unfortunate enough to be alone at Christmas time.
The website Community Christmas states that ‘87% of older people want a traditional Christmas spent in company’ – just a small gesture can go a long way.
How can you help?
There are several charities across the UK who dedicate their time to ensuring the number of elderly people alone at Christmas is reduced. Two charities which are doing just that are:
- Community Christmas
- Friends of the Elderly
National charity Friends of the Elderly has become official partners with Community Christmas in hopes that more people will get involved this year.
Friends of the Elderly was founded in 1905 with the aim of making sure that all elderly people have the opportunity to lead fulfilled lives. Friends of the Elderly has teamed up with Community Christmas, to help you locate activities to help the elderly in your local area at Christmas time.
Community Christmas is a charity that was set up in 2011. They have an ‘activity finder’ feature on their website which allows you to enter your postcode and view activities that are going on in your area at Christmas time. They dedicate themselves to raising money and spreading information about how people can help anyone who is elderly and alone this Christmas. They also offer guidance for older people, or those who care about them, and point them towards local activities, which may make their Christmas more enjoyable.
Last year, 370 activities were known to have taken place in the UK helping over 7000 elderly people. However with around a third* of older people living in the UK affected by loneliness, there are still many who would have had no choice but to spend the day alone.
One person who was helped by the Community Christmas charity last year is Tony Smith, 61 from Nottingham. Tony usually spends Christmas day alone but last year was able to attend a Christmas lunch and enjoy an afternoon of entertainment, he said “It was the first time Christmas actually meant something to me; it was the best Christmas I’ve ever had.”
10 Activities you could organise yourself to help others in your community this Christmas:
- A Christmas day walk.
- Get people together to watch a Christmas film.
- Share a mince pie and Christmas drink.
- Deliver a present to someone (if you don’t know where to send one to, this can be done through organisations such as The Salvation Army)
- A collection within your community to create Christmas hampers.
- Invite someone over for Christmas Dinner.
- Offer a taxi service for elderly people in your community who are unable to transport themselves on Christmas day.
- Organise a community Christmas lunch, where people can get together and enjoy each others company.
- Offer a gift-wrapping service – a great way to help someone out and offer your company at the same time.
- Help someone with their Christmas shopping.
“I enjoyed giving something to others and not sitting at home watching television and eating food we do not need” – Community Christmas website
If you organise a community activity this Christmas, let the Community Christmas charity know by registering it on their website, this way other members of your local area have the opportunity to find out and get involved.
A small gesture can go a long way for someone who is elderly and alone this Christmas.
*The Future or Loneliness: Facing the Challenge of loneliness for older people in the UK, 2014-2030. _Research conducted by the Future Foundation on behalf of Friends of the Elderly.