There are two different ways you can help alleviate loneliness in the elderly this Christmas. One is through the actions you can take in your personal life for someone you know: the other is by supporting elderly charities.
Loneliness can strike at any time, leaving devastating consequences on a person’s health and happiness. And no time are we more susceptible to feelings of loneliness than at Christmas.
This is a time that, perhaps more than any, we associate with being around friends, family and loved ones. If, for whatever reason, that is not the case, then the sense of being alone can be magnified. Considering what we know about the impact that loneliness can have on our mental and physical well-being, this isn’t an issue that should go ignored.
You may think of loneliness as simply being an unpleasant feeling, but not something that can greatly affect an individual. However, we now know that this is far from the case.
Loneliness can increase a person’s chances of becoming disabled, with a mortality increase comparable to heavy drinking or smoking (believed to roughly be around 26%). Both of these issues are partly caused by an increase in blood pressure as a result of long term loneliness, meaning individuals have a greater risk of heart disease or stroke.
In terms of mental health, things aren’t much better either, with feelings of loneliness contributing to greater feelings of depression and anxiety. Loneliness also negatively affects cognitive ability to the extent that the chances of dementia is believed to increase by around 64%.
In other words, there’s more to being lonely than simply feeling alone.
Ways You Can Help The Elderly This Christmas
If there’s an elderly person you know who you think might be spending Christmas alone, consider inviting them to enjoy festive dinner with you. The worst case scenario is that they’ll tell you they have other plans, but they will likely appreciate the gesture regardless. The best that could happen is that you turn a person’s Christmas day from a sad, lonely one to a day they’ll really enjoy. It’s a win-win situation.
In terms of what you can do more broadly, charities like Age UK use their funding to combat loneliness in old age through their befriending services. This service provides elderly individuals with a person they can talk to over the phone or in person. As you can imagine, Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year for the charity, and your donation can go a long way to ensuring that the festive period isn’t a lonely one.
If you want to go a step further, you can even register to volunteer to help the charity yourself: either through working at one of their shops, by registering as a telephone volunteer or by giving up some of your time to help at one of their organised events.
Similarly, there’s also Contact the Elderly: a charity which started with a tea party in 1965 and today provides monthly tea parties on a Sunday. They have supported over 100,000 elderly people suffering from loneliness. Donations can be made as a one off or as a monthly payment and helps to keep these events going into the future.
Another example of a wonderful charity is Community Christmas. This is a charity which aims to provide companionship to elderly people over the Christmas period. They do this by running a lunch event, organising meet-ups and even just popping round for some cake and a cup of tea. They were founded in 2011 and have grown year after year. Starting off with a mere couple of events, they today have hundreds of events you can find on their website.
To keep growing and providing more Christmas cheer, they need all the help they can get through donations and/or volunteer work so that no one need be lonely over the holidays. A mere £2 can answer a call from an elderly person, £5 can match them with an event and £10 helps to support a brand new activity.
Why Do We Get Lonelier As We Get Older?
It’s natural to lose contact with people as we go through life, and we don’t simply mean as we move into old age. If you think about all the friends you’ve ever had, there’s probably not too many who you’ve kept your entire life.
This isn’t because you stopped being friends. Perhaps you change jobs and lose touch or a person moves away for example. It happens to all of us and is a perfectly normal part of life.
The difference as we become older though is that we often no longer have ways in which we find new friends. We may have forged friendships at work for example, and after retirement, that opportunity to meet new people is no longer available. Other factors include medical issues, meaning we might struggle to go to social events, as well as the loss of loved ones.
At Melrose Care Home, we understand this, which is why we put together a fun and varied activities calendar filled with social activities, among more relaxing options. This offers a wonderful way to strike up new valuable and lasting relationships.