Give your time to fight loneliness this Christmas

Friends of the Elderly is calling upon people of Sussex to hold local Christmas activities so no older person will be alone on Christmas Day unless they want to be. As official partners of Community Christmas for 2015, national charity Friends of the Elderly hopes that more people than ever will get involved as around 500,000* older people in the UK are predicted to spend Christmas Day alone.

Last year there were ten Christmas Day activities listed for Sussex on the Community Christmas website, which saw a number of older people spending Christmas Day together enjoying one another’s company. However, research by Friends of the Elderly shows that 36% of older people living in the county are affected by loneliness** – meaning that many more activities are needed to ensure these people aren’t alone on Christmas Day.

A 92 year old woman opening a present.
A 92 year old woman opening a present.

As a response to this, Friends of the Elderly and Community Christmas are calling for volunteers to give the gift of time by organising a Christmas Day activity for older people in their communities and listing the event on the Community Christmas website.

In 2014, 242 options for companionship, organised by volunteers, care homes and pubs across the country, were listed on the Community Christmas website and an estimated 5000 older people benefited from attending these events. Community Christmas works closely with other organisations including Friends of the Elderly, The Silver Line, Abbeyfields, BUPA and more.

Almost two thirds of people surveyed by Friends of the Elderly, as part of its Be a Friend campaign, said they feel they could do more to support older people at Christmas time.

There are a number of ways that people and businesses can support older people in their community, from getting people together to watch a Christmas film, enjoying a Christmas Day walk or simply sharing a cup of tea. Ideas for businesses can range from call centres opening their staff canteens for festive treats or local taxi firms operating a lift scheme to and from Christmas Day activities.

Steve Allen, Chief Executive at Friends of the Elderly, said: “Friends of the Elderly is delighted to be working with Community Christmas this year to support older people facing Christmas alone. We know that loneliness can have a devastating impact on older people’s lives and those we work with tell us that becoming isolated from a community they were once part of can be especially difficult. That’s why we’re calling on individuals, organisations and businesses to put on activities on Christmas Day to bring together older people in their community who don’t want to be alone.”

For any activity being organised on Christmas Day, ensure that you contact Community Christmas so it can be listed on the website making it easier for older people to know what’s happening in Sussex. For more information please visit www.fote.org.uk/Christmas

* Royal Voluntary Service predicted in 2014 there would be 490,000 older people who would spend Christmas alone

** The Future of Loneliness: Facing the Challenge of loneliness for older people in the UK, 2014-2030. Research conducted by the Future Foundation on behalf of Friends of the Elderly