The fantasy of Christmas
Over the festive period, television and movies showcase happy families jumping on planes, on trains and into cars to spend a happy Christmas Day together.
You can picture it now. In a blur of red, green, fir and lights, tables are laden with food, there’s laughter and affection, presents under the tree, and kindly grandparents looking on while basking in their family’s love. Beautiful, bronzed turkeys, the sound of carols in the air, children racing about and an atmosphere of pure joy. You can feel the warmth.
Well, that’s the fantasy anyway.
The reality of Christmas
Sadly, for many – and even in the best of times – the above description is not an accurate reflection of this time of year
Many people don’t have families with whom they want to celebrate, or they want to celebrate together but it’s just not possible. Relations stuck in other countries due to COVID, death, divorce, moving away and falling out – or never having had a family – can mean that some people are alone every day; even on days when, traditionally, families come together.
The bleak midwinter
What’s more, winter can be a particularly hard time for older people, as dark nights, short days and cold, often wet, weather mean that it’s much harder to enjoy safely spending time outside.
COVID-19 has made all of this worse of course.
During months of staying inside, Age UK has found that some older people have become less confident doing daily activities they used to enjoy, and some are no longer even able to take any pleasure in activities they once took in their stride.
Thanks to restrictions, older people may be venturing out more rarely, so chance encounters at the local shop or in their road are now far less likely, but it’s these small chats in everyday life that make such a vast difference to older people’s sense of connection and level of loneliness,
COVID at Christmas
As well as the relative lack of small interactions with neighbours, COVID-19 has made set-piece joyful family occasions far less likely.
Many families will not be permitted to see older relatives, as they live in a different country, or in a different part of the UK. Others may choose to stay away from older relatives to keep them safe. COVID obviously still represents a threat to all of us – especially older people – and there are millions of people who are going to find the next weeks and months particularly difficult. Consequently, some elderly people may well be feeling lonelier than usual this festive season.
Here are some sobering statistics:
- At the beginning of November, 6.1 million people aged 60 and over said that they were already feeling lonely
- ONS figures show that 2.2 million of over 60s say that they haven’t had anyone to talk to about their worries
- In the same report, 2.2 million people said they felt like they are a burden on others
- According to Age UK research, almost 2 million older people are expecting to feel lonely this Christmas – including almost a third of older widows and widowers.
- More than half of the UK’s older population are concerned that COVID-19 restrictions mean that they cannot see family or friends this Christmas, potentially making this festive period the loneliest and scariest ever experienced for many older people
“During lockdown, I didn’t get to see anyone, we couldn’t have visitors, and I had to stay in my flat. Because of the virus, I haven’t been out for over six months, I don’t get up to a lot. I’m going blind, and my hearing has been very bad, so I can’t watch the TV, I can’t read or write. I used to like cooking and gardening, but I can’t do either of them. I enjoy listening to talking books from the library. I normally just go to bed and listen to them there because it’s more comfortable.” – Marjorie, 98
The power of human connection
Thankfully, amongst all of this, Age UK also uncovered some positive news in their research. It seems that many people in the UK have stepped up to support older people; with 5.8 million older people saying they “wouldn’t have got through” the pandemic without their friends.
One in five older people (22%) have had someone help them by collecting their prescriptions or medicine during the pandemic and a third (33%) of older people have had someone help them by shopping for essentials (e.g., food and toiletries).
This practical support also plays a part in easing loneliness, as conversations lead to deeper friendships and feelings of belonging.
Despite our lives living increasingly online, the power of friendship and human connection seems stronger and more necessary than ever before.
Here are some things we can all do to play our part in minimising elderly loneliness at Christmas
- CHECK IN: Keep in touch with friends, relatives and neighbours and find out if there’s anything they need. If you can’t get there in person, call or video call. You can also send them homemade cards, letters and even small gifts – just small things to show you care
- HELP OUT: Can you offer your neighbours help with their shopping or errands?
“This seems set to be a festive period like we have never experienced before, and not one any of us would want to navigate on our own. At the best of times, Christmas can be bitter-sweet for many older people, but this year they are going to need our support even more than usual.” – Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK
Is there any official support to combat elderly loneliness at Christmas?
“Christmases with my wife Maggie were always so nice. It looks like I’ll be on my own again for Christmas this year. Life is so lonely when you are on your own.” – Roy, 80
At the moment, for people over the age of 65 or so, or those who are infirm or unwell, this is a particularly trying time. If you know someone who may be lonely over Christmas or beyond, please do pass on these numbers to them.
The Silver Line Helpline (0800 4 70 80 90)
Knowing you make a difference every time you talk to an older person really makes my day.” – Julia, volunteer
The Silver Line Helpline is a free, national and confidential phone line for older people. Call the number and you can get information, friendship and advice – or just a nice chat.
Silver Line also offers Telephone Friendship and Silver Letters; two services (phone and letter writing) which are also volunteer-led and free of charge.
Telephone Friendship offers a regularly timed weekly 30-minute call with a volunteer who shares your interests, while Silver Letters means you and your Silver Line volunteer friend write a couple of letters to each other a month. These often include exchanges of poetry and photos.
You can be a member of both Silver Letters and Telephone Friendship and can find more information here about both options: https://www.thesilverline.org.uk/.
According to Silver Line, the majority of older people call in the evenings, at night and weekends for company, especially around times of transition such as following a bereavement. They are happy to speak to people for as long as the caller wants to talk, and they also find out more about the caller with the aim of getting them involved in more face-to-face opportunities if possible.
“It’s very difficult when you haven’t got children and you are not working… you are lost… I am now involved with a Silver Circle… We chat to one another, we know one another. They are my friends… You give us confidence to go forth… I am now going to be a facilitator. I’m going to have my own Circle and, if I’m allowed, I’ll take over the place!” Silver Line service user
Call Age UK free of charge on 0800 169 6565 (8 am-7 pm)
The charity Age UK runs a well-organised telephone befriending service called Call in Time which means you can sign up for a free friendship call every week. You can find out more here. Age UK advice is expert and valuable, and we’d encourage you to check them out.
At the height of COVID-19 they had a 300% increase in the numbers of older people wanting this service, and they are expecting another increase over the Christmas period. If you can donate or fundraise for them, please do.
FUNDRAISE FOR AGE UK: more ideas here
DONATE TO AGE UK here
Face to Face befriending service
In non-COVID times, Great Park Homecare offers face-to-face befriending services where our kind-hearted staff visit someone at home for a cuppa and a chat. This is still true during the Festive Season and in throughout the pandemic. Staff are fully trained, tested and protected against the pandemic variants, before entering clients’ homes.
Friendship groups or centres are a great way to build new relationships and rebuild your social confidence. You can contact your local Age UK group here.
If you have a hobby or leisure activity you used to love, we at Great Park Homecare can match carers and times to suit you, to re-ignite the joy you have, to engage once more with your favourite pastimes. Keeping our minds active is just as important as physical activity to live well.
Let’s come together and help each other
If you have an older friend, relative or elderly neighbour, they may be feeling acute feelings of loneliness over the Christmas period in marked contrast to the joyful scenes depicted in the media.
This holiday season let’s all do our bit to try and reach out and make people we know feel more loved and wanted. Why not call now and make someone’s day?
Great Park Homecare at Christmas
Here at Great Park Homecare, we offer other services – to prevent elderly loneliness at Christmas and all year round.
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Our core values of uncompromising standards, exceeding client expectations & making a real difference to peoples’ lives has enabled us to build an exceptional reputation. Great Park Homecare is a care provider that you can trust & believe in.
Our focus is 100% on our clients. Our aim is to provide a service that is driven by their needs & aspirations. We listen to each individual’s wishes & create a bespoke care package for them, working with loved ones & external healthcare professionals when relevant, to tailor services to ever-changing health needs.
Rapid Response Service
Our Rapid Response Service has seen our Care Management Team, subject to a full and proper Care Assessment, deliver practical care to a client within 48 hours of an enquiry that was received on New Year’s Eve! We are open for enquiries during the Season.
Can we help you this Christmas?
My husband really enjoys the visits from the first class carers. They have always been so caring and reliable and we both can’t thank them enough. I always tell people that [they] are the best.”- Mrs D, Client’s wife, Bracknell
If your loved one could do with some TLC, emotional or physical support over the Christmas period, our highly trained team are available to offer festive cheer and a listening ear.
They provided a level of care beyond my expectation and where nothing was too much trouble. They have provided an outstanding level of care which has enabled mum to remain at home for as long as possible and maintain her dignity and quality of life.” – Mr S, Client’s son, Windsor
Do we serve your area?
Here at Great Park Homecare, we provide home health care services in Windsor, Old Windsor, Ascot & surrounding areas including Ascot, Binfield, Bracknell, Bray, Datchet, Dorney, Englefield Green, Eton, Eton Wick, Great Park, Holyport, Maidenhead, Sunningdale, Sunninghill, Virginia Water, Warfield, Winkfield, Windsor and Wraysbury.
Our standards are as high as our care levels
We hold ourselves to high standards & pride ourselves on the way we engage with clients, families & the wider community. As such, we’re members of the UK Homecare Association and Federation of Small Businesses so we can effectively keep updated with and adhere to governance and regulation.
We’re practical & proactive
Each client’s care needs are reviewed using real-time monitoring technology as well as regular face- to-face Review Meetings. We call every client regularly to check they feel safe and are happy with their care…and they always are!
Would you like to find out more?
For more information on our home care in Windsor & beyond, and our prices, please get in touch via our online form and we’ll get back to you within 24hrs. If you’d prefer to talk to someone now then please call us on +44 (0) 1753 369088. We are open to enquiries during Christmastime and the New Year.