Many elderly people live a lonely existence with little or no company. Startling new figures released by Age UK show that 450,000 people aged 65 and over are facing Christmas alone this year.
Melanie Meads runs a Reading based companion care agency, Q1Care Ltd, which provides in-home support for vulnerable and elderly across Berkshire and is calling on her community to take a moment out of their busy lives to consider those around them. “If we all took the time to notice who lives a few doors down or across the road, we might find ourselves helping someone in need,” she says.
Melanie concedes that life is busy and she isn’t suggesting we all open our homes for the season but shares some easy-to-achieve good deeds that could make all the difference.
- Don’t post the Christmas card through the letter box – knock on the door and deliver it in person!
- Taking the time to pop by with some mince pies that can be enjoyed over a chat and a cup of tea could make all the difference to a lonely neighbour.
- Offering to help with the shopping or light housework will provide company and help with a necessary task.
- You could walk with your neighbour to the post box to send off Christmas cards or offer to take packages to the post office.
- Is there a local carol service or church service that you could take them to?
- If temperatures take a sudden nose-dive, check that the vulnerable have enough warmth to stay safe. Official figures released this week show that last winter a 30% rise in deaths linked to freezing temperatures.
Reaching out with the offer of help or a short visit can make an elderly neighbours day – even those with family nearby may go without visitors for a number of days on end and we should not underestimate the impact of loneliness on general health and well-being.
The NHS has set up a campaign calling for “Winter Friends” to show some good-old-fashioned neighbourly spirit. Melanie and her team are supporting this campaign and hopes to see local communities pulling together this festive season.
I have a Great Aunt who is 86 – she is one of the lucky ones as she has a large extended family and an abundance for friends – rarely does a day go by when she doesn’t have a visitor, at least for an hour or so but she has told me that the rare days when she is alone are ‘crippling.’ For those of us who have never experienced true loneliness I think it is hard to imagine what it is like but let’s all try to imagine, and now let’s think about how we could make one day a little less lonely for one of our neighbours.
More information about Winter Friends can be found at www.nhs.uk/winterfriends
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