Many people experience a greater sense of loneliness at Christmas so here we bring you some ideas to help you survive during our most important festival.
According to Age UK almost a million older people say they feel lonelier at Christmas and half a million older people can go up to a week without seeing or speaking to anyone.
But this year, many older people who have been isolating at home due to COVID-19 have had a year without the companionship, care and love that many of us simply take for granted. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that isolation has a significant effect on mental health and contributes to anxiety, depression and even the onset of dementia.
Some elderly people will have made huge sacrifices to stay safe: limiting contact with families, friends and even partners, if one is living in a care home with hugely restricted visiting opportunities.
However, there is reason to be positive following the surge in support for helping each other and the uptake in volunteering that we have seen during the previous lockdown.
The Campaign to end Loneliness was launched in 2017 to connect and bring communities together across the UK. They are on a mission to raise awareness in government, communities and businesses of the damaging impact this has on society and their website has lots of tips and advice for reducing loneliness at all times of the year – see https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/
So here are ten ideas to help create a happier time for the elderly or the vulnerable this Christmas and at the time of publishing this, we expect the current restrictions to be eased or lifted in time for Christmas.
Help someone who is digitally excluded to use Facetime or Zoom to connect with their friends and family. There are loads of good resources to show others how to start using the internet by becoming a Digital Champion including how to stay safe and look after your online security on the Digital Unite website plus a good guide to where to start from Calderdale Forum 50 Plus. https://calderdaleforum50plus.com/2020/10/19/improve-your-digital-skills-during-get-online-week-19-to-25-october/
Age UK have set up a Digital Buddy service – https://www.ageuk.org.uk/get-involved/volunteer/become-an-age-uk-digital-buddy/ and are running free IT support drop-in sessions for people who need help. https://www.ageuk.org.uk/calderdaleandkirklees/our-services/help-with-it/
Make up the numbers
If your family group is less than six on Christmas Day, make up the numbers by inviting someone who is on their own to join in.
Find a church or community group
Make contact with a church where elderly people are already welcomed and often have a network of volunteers with appropriate guidance on helping others and keeping safe. Or when churches open again for services, why not join in and start making new friends.
Volunteer with a local charity or community organisation that serves the elderly or excluded communities. Age UK run regular recruitment campaigns for “befrienders” to support people with a regular telephone call.
Knock on a neighbour’s door and offer help
Remember to stay a safe distance away and/or wear a facemask. It could make a huge difference to someone lonely, to know that a neighbour is looking out for them and help is at hand.
Give a gift or write a letter
Buy or make a card or a present for a lonely person and add a positive message. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but a simple gift can help to bring cheer to someone else. Or why not start corresponding with your new “friend”. Writing letters is a bit of a lost art, but there is real pleasure to be gained from reading a handwritten letter.
If you don’t know an elderly or lonely person – ask around. Community Facebook groups are a great way to connect with local people and find out who needs help. Be mindful of your own privacy and the need to take precautions at all times before meeting anyone face-to-face. Guidance here: https://www.digitalunite.com/technology-guides/social-networking-blogs/facebook/how-stay-safe-facebook
Bake a cake
An easy and cheap way to make a difference might be to bake a cake or make a meal and deliver it in person who may now find home cooking too much effort.
Encourage them to join the Memory Lane Café
The Café has been supporting its members throughout the lockdown and is up and running again since 1 December. The sessions include music, games and chat and there is loads of support available for members and attendees.
Go for a walk with an older companion
Although we can’t meet indoors, we can still meet one other person outdoors. Why not take an older person you already know out for a regular walk.