12 Dec 2019

Loneliness Over The Festive Period: How You Can Help

Loneliness Over The Festive Period: How You Can Help

The feeling of loneliness can be heightened at Christmas with the expectation of festive frivolity accentuating the sense of isolation for some.

Charities are urging people to consider the feelings of others but to take a sensitive approach with those they have concerns for. Age UK have teamed up with Cadbury on a campaign called 'Donate Your Words', where Cadbury are selling bars of chocolate with no words on to demonstrate that a large percentage of the UK older population go days or weeks without speaking to anyone. 

Christmas is the time of year where people take the time to come together with loved ones and feel joyful. For many, it is just that… however, evidence suggests that a heart-breaking percentage of up to 13% of elderly people feel lonely and isolated during the Christmas period. This isolation can have detrimental effects to health and quality of life, but can be tackled. To help combat this problem, check out these ways of preventing loneliness in the elderly this Christmas.

A new survey for Age UK's No one should have no one to turn to campaign finds that Christmas is the loneliest time of the year for over 1.5 million older people, with those who have been widowed feeling it the most.

Age UK's research found that more than three-quarters (77%) of over 65s agree that the first Christmas after losing someone you love is the hardest. With up to 170,000 older people soon to face their first Christmas without their spouse, the charity is calling on the public for support.

The research found that over 750,000 older widowed people often feel more lonely over Christmas than at any other time of the year, with over 200,000 older widows and widowers not looking forward to the festive season because they will be alone.

The campaign, No one should have no one to turn to, is shining a light on how tough this time of year can be for many older people, especially if they are on their own having lost their partner. As part of the campaign, the charity has released a new report, You are Not Alone, which looks in more detail at what we know about the impacts of bereavement and shares some of the stories of those who have reached out to the charity following a painful loss.

According to the charity's survey, more than three million older people in the UK aren't looking forward to Christmas this year. Over 700,000 (23%) say it brings back too many memories of people who have passed away and of happier times.

Picking up the phone, making a brief visit, or pitching an outing are three of the key suggestions from experts.

A particular group blighted by loneliness is the elderly, with recent Age UK research suggesting some 1.7million people aged over 65 have not seen a friend for a month.

Campaign to End Loneliness - Five tips from Age UK: 

  • Take time to talk: Take time to talk to an older person this Christmas. This could be done at the supermarket, at the pub or out for a walk. Just say a simple hello. It could make a big difference to someone who’s lonely.
  • Give someone a call: Take the time to speak to your friends and family that you won’t be with this Christmas. A ten-minute phone call can have a big impact.
  • Give a neighbour a card: Ring the doorbell and hand a Christmas card to your neighbour. Start a conversation and make a connection.
  • Spare a chair: Do you have a spare chair at your dinner table? Know a neighbour who might be alone? Invite them to join you for a Christmas meal.
  • Invite the neighbours: Hosting a Christmas party? Don’t forget to invite the neighbours. If there’s anyone in your community who might be alone, send them an invite. The more the merrier!

Advice from the Campaign to End Loneliness said: “You aren’t feeling lonely because there’s something wrong with you.

“Loneliness is a natural reaction to not having the social connections you want or need. Anyone can feel lonely at any age, but bereavement, retirement, poor health and living far away from your family can make some people feel even more isolated and alone."

It’s the little things that make all the difference. If you pass an elderly neighbour or an elderly stranger, it can make their day just to stop and say a quick hello. It might be the only communication they will have all day! It might be that the individual has hearing difficulties or problems with memory, so make sure you speak loud and clear for them to hear and get the most out of the conversation.

For elderly people still living at home, simple household tasks can become daunting. A helping hand can go a long way, so if you have some spare time, why not offer to help with some of the basic things they need doing around the house. Even if it’s just emptying bins or washing dishes! Not only does this help an elderly person to feel more relaxed, but you can socialise with them while helping with their chores.

Cooking can be a hard task for elderly individuals suffering from isolation. One way of helping to reduce this stress is to take some food round for them to simply heat up. You could make an extra portion of the food you’re cooking at home and bring it over in a container. Or, if you fancy it, you could even offer to sit and eat with them to keep them company for an hour. Food recipes particularly good for doing this are casseroles and pies, as they are easy to make in large batches and lovely to eat during the winter months.

There are lots of ways that you can help to prevent lonliness over the festive period, as our guide above demonstrates. 

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