Preventing loneliness this christmas

This year, more than ever loneliness is going to be felt by the our elderly loved ones.  Covid restrictions mean many will be facing time alone, or at least may be in a smaller group than they’d like.

Guest blogger Ella Hendrix has some advice for us all on preventing loneliness this Christmas.

Most years, Christmas is a magical time of year where you get to relax, spend time with family, and enjoy the festive celebrations. People travel all across the country and world, to be with their loved ones on Christmas. But for some people, loneliness and isolation at Christmas are a massive issue.

According to Age UK up to 1 million elderly people feel lonely during the festive period. Unfortunately, loneliness is now such a major problem among the elderly, that national campaigns launched to help ensure that vulnerable people have someone to share the holidays with.

Causes of loneliness at Christmas

It’s easy to forget that the family-orientated holiday season can be the loneliest time for people with no relatives. One of the biggest issues for seniors is that their social circles gradually shrink, with family members and friends moving away or passing away, as the years go by. Even those who still live nearby may be inaccessible due to limited mobility, especially once someone can no longer drive safely.

Age UK estimates that around 873,000 elderly people don’t see or hear from anyone for days at a time over the festive period. Shockingly, two fifths of all seniors admit that the television is their main company. This lack of communication results in elderly people feeling isolated, lonely, and uninvolved. During Christmas there is an enormous focus on family gatherings, social events, and having the perfect Christmas, and so these feelings are intensified.

Things you can do to help

This year is like no other year.  So how can we practically help the elderly?

  • Form a support bubble – if you have an elderly friend or relative who will be on their own this Christmas why not offer to create a support bubble?  They can then become part of your household.
  • Have a chat – There is a great campaign run by the NHS, RVS and others this year called ‘Christmas Together‘.  If you like a chat, take time to reach out to a neighbour who lives alone or is shielding.  Get on the phone or video call them.  If they are mobile why not invite them for a walk?
  • Give a neighbour a card – Post a Christmas card through the doors of those who you know are elderly or vulnerable.  Perhaps have a doorstep chat with them and offer assistance with shopping etc.
  • Offer to help – Daily chores can be particularly tiring for elderly people. If you have the time, then why not offer to help out – even just taking the bins out can be a great source of relief. This kind gesture, along with the social interaction, will help someone feel less alone. 
  • Volunteer – Organisations that support the elderly are always looking for volunteers, especially over the Christmas period. If you have spare time, then volunteering is a great way to support vulnerable people in your area; this is a rewarding experience and one of the best ways to combat loneliness. Mareta, a carer at Helping Hands explains how “giving time to those who need support is something truly special.”  Age UK are looking for volunteers through their Neighbourly Volunteering campaign. The NHS is looking for Volunteer Responders who can offer comfort to a stranger. You’ll be matched with a person who is on their own at Christmas.  You can then get involved in making a difference with a chat, a walk or perhaps offering to do their shopping.
  • Provide a hot meal – Cooking can be a difficult task for elderly people and research has found that seniors often skip meals. Making an extra portion of food is an easy and inexpensive way to help out.
Final thought

Christmas is normally a joyous time for family to get together and enjoy the celebrations.  This year, however, it will be different.   Covid restrictions will see smaller gatherings and the advice ‘don’t hug granny’. 

Why not make someone’s Christmas, by reaching out, however you can, to support someone who is feeling lonely this winter.

Our thanks to Ella Hendrix for her original article.  Ella is a versatile freelance writer, currently covering articles on family psychology, elderly care children’s behaviour. In her spare time, you will find her head in a book or sipping on a peppermint tea. 

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