An estimated 200,000 elderly people will spend this Christmas alone with a further 1.5 million effected by loneliness.
Many elderly people fear to leave the house due to the bad weather, resulting in them struggling to have access to basic items such as food.
Also, many elderly people don’t keep sufficiently warm due to fear of rising gas and electric bills, resulting in fatal illnesses, including the flu.
The elderly and physically challenged are most at risk of suffering from the bad weather as they find it difficult to stay mobile and leave the house.
It’s important that we consider our elderly family members, neighbours and friends over the Christmas period.
You can help by considering:
- Making regular contact – checking in with someone who is lacking human contact can improve their wellbeing. This can be done with a simple phone call.
- Pick them up items from the shop – many elderly people can’t make the trip to the shop in bad weather, especially if they are ill. Asking if they would like anything picking up or asking them if they would like to come with you could make an enormous difference to them.
- Take them to the doctors if they fall ill – if the weather is icy it may become scary, or even impossible for an elderly person to visit the doctor and get medicine. Taking them in the car or a taxi can make them feel less anxious.
- Visiting for a coffee – many elderly people can go days without human contact, especially face to face interaction. Visiting them can potentially make their day, or even week.
- Write a Christmas card – we take certain things for granted, and gestures, such as a Christmas card, can make some feel loved and thought about.
- Make sure they are keeping warm – when you visit, pay attention to the room temperature, especially if the weather is bad outside. Make sure they are turning their heating on.
- Make sure they are eating properly – it would be easy to make extra portions of our meals and take them to our elderly family members and neighbours to make sure they are getting a warm meal. If suitable, invite them to your dinner table so they don’t have to eat it alone.
You may not have issues with leaving the house or keeping mobile in the weather, but may experience feelings of loneliness yourself.
Feelings of loneliness can feel stronger at Christmas and New Year, especially if you are experiencing bereavement, going through a break up or have recently retired.
Here are some tips which you can take to help:
- Get out of the house – visit busy places to be around people or join a class or a group where the attention will be on a specific activity.
- Make new connections – join a recreational group of people with similar interest as you or look for volunteer opportunities in your spare time.
- Go online – you can find plenty of online communities and support programmes, from chat rooms, to phone help lines or places where you can organise face to face support
- Try to talk to people – you may have friends or people you know going through similar experiences and it may be useful to open up to them. If you do not have friends or family, or feel uncomfortable, there are peer support groups and therapists available.
Lindsey Rawson is a Partner and Head of Wills, Trusts & Probate at Howells Solicitors, and is a registered ‘Dementia Friend’. She also works closely with Age UK Sheffield and speaks regularly at events across the region supporting people with their post retirement plans.
Support at Christmas
There are a number of charities and volunteer groups working to support elderly people who are feeling lonely and offer advice and guidance to help. You can simply Google charity and events, or search on Facebook events near you.
- Age UK (England) – 0800 678 1602 – ageuk.org.uk
Information and support for older people.
- Befriending Networks – befriending.co.uk
Information on befriending, including an online directory of UK befriending services.
- Carers UK – 0808 808 7777 – carersuk.org
Advice and support for people caring for someone else.
- Contact the Elderly – 0800 716 543 – contact-the-elderly.org
Social activities for people over 75 who have little or no social support.
- Cruse Bereavement Care – 0808 808 1677 – cruse.org.uk
Information and support after a bereavement.
- Do-it – do-it.org
Lists UK volunteering opportunities.
- Gingerbread – 0808 802 0925 – gingerbread.org.uk
Advice and practical support for single parent families.
- com – meetup.com
Website that allows you to find face-to-face groups of people who share your interests or aspirations.
- National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) – ncvo.org.uk
Information about volunteering, including details of local centres.
- Samaritans – samaritans.org
24-hour emotional support for anyone who needs to talk.
- Scope – scope.org.uk
Provides practical information and emotional support for disabled people.
- The Silver Line – 0800 4 70 80 90 – thesilverline.org.uk
Provides support, information, friendship and advice for older people (over 55) who may feel lonely or isolated.
- Web of Loneliness – webofloneliness.com
Online community and website which provides information and tips on loneliness.