Christmas without family and friends is something we all aim to avoid, but an unbelievable half a million elderly will be alone this festive season. These people and services are making it a little more bearable.

Christmas dinners

lonely at christmas

It’s a feast associated with family, sometimes the more immediate and other times sprawling to welcome family members only seen once a year. At this annual feast, family is something for which we are really grateful—even if the rest of the year we take them for granted.

For the UK’s estimated half a million elderly who will spend Christmas alone, the family will be missing. Some wonderful people are determined to ensure that they aren't alone. 

Margaret runs a care home of 30 people in Ormskirk, Lancashire, and extends her care further during the festive season by inviting others to Christmas Dinner. “It’s wither a very happy time or a very lonely time, so we decided to ask [the lonely] to come along and they love it”

Not only is Christmas dinner served, but the guests are entertained with music, a good old sing along, and a little bit of dancing. The reviews are in and people love it!

“You get lonely at home, no doubts about that, but it’s lovely coming here,” says one gentleman, decorated in a purple paper Christmas crown. Another guest said: “Christmas means family, and this means family.”

Margaret believes that everyone has something to give this Christmas, the gift of time. “It’s easy, and giving a little bit of time can mean the world to somebody.”

Find out what Christmas means to the lonely:

 

Community Christmas

community christmas lonely
Betty Williams at her Community Christmas event in 2015. Image via Community Christmas

With few places open on Christmas there may be few places for people to go to escape their loneliness.

“Christmas day is a long day for some people. They’re going to be on their own all day”, says Betty Williams who spent £1000 filling a Devon pub with her community last Christmas.

The key to preventing people from being alone is connecting activities and events to those who need the company. With this in mind, Community Christmas was run nationwide last year with great success. The cause suggest numerous ways to get involved:

“Offer to organise a new activity, whether it is a lunch club, a film show or some other kind of group activity. Community Christmas will support you with information about how to do it.”

Something as small as opening your doors to an elderly neighbour or friend is sometimes the only gesture you need to make to light up someone’s Christmas.

Read more: How to make new friends if you're over 50

 

Being a friend

lonely this christmas

“I found it very hard, I don’t really enjoy Christmas, I try and celebrate it and I try and look Christmassy, but there’s an empty feeling. You can’t explain it, it’s just like something’s missing”

One elderly lady, Dorothy, reminisces about by gone Christmases and how it hasn’t been the same since the death of her partner some five years ago.

Some people choose to be alone on Christmas day because they experience a similar empty feeling and just can’t get into the spirit. But this doesn’t mean they find the day any easier.

Charities such as Age UK organise volunteers to befriend the lonely through regular phone calls.

“It’s means something. Somebody’s interested. Somebody’s interested enough to get in touch and to chat, and we’ll talk about any subject we fancy.” Having another person on the end of the line gives Dorothy the human contact she desires to keep loneliness at bay.

 

Entertaining the elderly at Christmas

elderly for dinner christmas

If you’re inviting an elderly friend, relative or neighbour over for Christmas, there are a few things you need to consider:

  • Any special dietary requirements
  • Remember that it gets harder to hear as you age. Speak slowly and clearly and don’t get frustrated if you are asked to repeat yourself or turn the telly up
  • Save the comfy seat for them
  • Think about games and activities that everyone can join in with and enjoy
  • Don’t assume that because a person is older that they are uninterested in conversation, whether it’s about Netflix or computer games or chart music, engage them
  • And don’t forget to visit any elderly relatives this Christmas.

 

No one should have no one this Christmas. Donate to Age UK or learn more about their volunteering opportunities

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