Last year we launched our Future of Loneliness report, which showed that five million older people in the UK are affected by loneliness and that this number is on the rise. We’ve been working to reduce loneliness and isolation for many years – these new figures confirmed that even more needs to be done if all older people are to lead happy and fulfilled lives.
In response to these findings, we launched our Be a Friend campaign, which is encouraging people to be more neighbourly and look out for each other in their communities. When we heard about the wonderful work Community Christmas does to connect older people with their communities on Christmas Day we knew it was something we had to get involved in – it just fits so well with our own messages and overall ethos.
That’s why this year Friends of the Elderly and Community Christmas are working together to encourage hundreds of people to Be a Friend by organising a local Christmas activity, so no older person will be alone on Christmas Day unless they want to be. The partnership cements our commitment to supporting older people facing Christmas alone, as well as our wider work ending loneliness in the older population all year round. We hope that our support will see more people than ever getting involved this year as 500,000 older people are predicted to spend this Christmas Day alone.
Organising a local Christmas activity is easy – it’s not just about the turkey dinner; you could get people together to watch a Christmas film, share a glass of sherry and a mince pie, or enjoy a Christmas Day walk. If you’re a local business owner, think about how you can open your doors to older people in your community – pub landlords and restaurant owners could operate a ‘book alone but don’t dine alone’ system, call centres could open their staff canteens for festive treats, and local taxi firms could operate a lift scheme. If you’re already organising an activity on Christmas Day, or know of one in your area, then the all you need to do is list it here on the Community Christmas website for free! Whatever you decide to do, you will help make sure more older people, who would otherwise be alone, have something to look forward to on Christmas Day.
To find out more about our Be a Friend campaign, visit www.beafriendtoday.org.uk
By Steve Allen, Chief Executive, Friends of the Elderly