As families across the country stir their Christmas pudding and make a wish on Sunday 20 November, we, along with the charity Community Christmas, are calling on the nation to consider the wishes of the half a million older people who say Christmas Day is when they feel most lonely*.
For many older people facing Christmas alone, their only wish is to have someone to share the day with. Valerie faced an empty home after her husband of 58 years died. In the terrible loneliness of her loss, her only wish was that she had someone to talk to. With a third of older people in the UK experiencing loneliness**, we are encouraging people to organise an activity and give people like Valerie something to look forward to on Christmas Day.
Last year, around 370 activities were known to have taken place across the UK, making Christmas day memorable for more than 7,500 older people. But there are thousands more who may have had no choice but to spend the day alone.
Organising an activity is easy – it’s not just about the turkey dinner, you could get people together to watch a Christmas film in a community centre, share a cup of tea and a mince pie in your local pub, or invite people to join you on a Christmas Day walk.
Tara Swankie owns a shop called Swanky Jo in Dundee. Last year she and her family opened the shop up for older people who wanted a few hours of company on Christmas Day. Tara said: “We offered older people tea, coffee and mince pies. Lots of people said they preferred this to an organised activity like a Christmas lunch as they could drop in and leave when they wanted. One woman was so happy she was in tears; she said it was the first time in three years that she’d had company on Christmas Day.”
Jo O’Boyle, Director of Engagement at Friends of the Elderly, said: “Stir-up Sunday is traditionally a time for loved ones to get together to stir the Christmas pudding and make a wish. We want to remind people that not everyone has friends and family around. 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. Together with Community Christmas, we want to bring together older people in the community who don’t want to be on their own on Christmas Day.”
If you’re organising an activity on Christmas Day, or know of one in your area, contact Community Christmas so it can be listed on the website, making it easier for older people to know what’s happening in their local area.
Find out how you can get involved or phone Community Christmas on 0800 063 9285 for more information.
* Royal Voluntary Service 2015
** 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.