Reduce loneliness in the elderly this Christmas
Christmas is a time for family and many of us will spend the festive period surrounded by loved ones, making it a very enjoyable time.
However, there are a lot of people, particularly older people, who find this time of year particularly hard. For couples with no close family, or individuals who have lost their spouse, Christmas can be a difficult period to cope with and loneliness can be a real issue.
Even those with family can feel isolated, especially if their children are spending the time with their own children or there is a distance between them.
Sadly, a recent poll for Age UK showed that a quarter of people aged over 65, which is around 3 million people, are not looking forward to Christmas this year. Of these, over 300,000 say it is because they will be alone and 200,000 are not expecting to see their family as often as they would like to. This has led to the charity launching its campaign ‘No one should have no one at Christmas’, which ties in with the Man on the Moon appeal video with John Lewis.
There are many reasons that loneliness like this is such an issue these days. Families are more scattered than ever before and distance can make meeting up more difficult. Our daily working lives are also a lot busier, with many of us not having a long break over the festive period in which to travel to visit older family members. Electronic methods of communication, such as Skype and email, have replaced face-to-face visits in some cases, which are easier to schedule in, but can increase loneliness.
Loneliness can have a serious impact on the health of older people, however. It can lead to health conditions like dementia, high blood pressure and depression.
So how can we prevent this? It is important that we all make an effort to support and visit our elderly loved ones this Christmas. Make arrangements to see them in good time, so that they have something to look forward to. Let them know when you are coming and for how long, or invite them to stay with you for a few days and experience a bustling, busy household. Stay in frequent contact throughout the Christmas period, even when you are not there, and remind them that they do have family that cares.
If you don’t have anyone in your immediate family who needs this support, then there are still ways that you can help. If you know of a neighbour who has no family visiting, then pop in and keep them company for an hour or two – it can make all the difference. Take a pudding, a box of chocolates or a simple card, which will be greatly appreciated.
There are various community-based initiatives set up to help this problem too. You could help older people to find out about these, or you could volunteer – either way you would be making a huge difference to someone this Christmas. For example, take a look at http://communitychristmas.org.uk/ and http://www.fote.org.uk/support-us/christmas/ for ideas on how you could get involved, and look in local papers for nearby schemes.
Age UK is running a petition to help local and national government realise the true impact of loneliness and what needs to be done at the national level, but also recognises the important of individuals and communities in tackling the problem. You can view the petition and sign it here: http://www.ageuk.org.uk/no-one/campaign-for-age-uk.