Simple steps we can all take to look out for people who may be feeling lonely this Christmas.

Loneliness can be an issue for anyone of any age at any time in their lives, but the festive season can be the loneliest time of all for so many people. It’s traditionally a time for families and friends to gather and celebrate, but that’s not the reality for all of us, especially if your family lives a long way away or you’ve recently lost someone close to you.

For many older people it is a period when feelings of isolation and loneliness escalate as they face the prospect of being alone over the festive period. According to Age UK, more than 2 million people in England over the age of 75 live alone, and more than a million people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member.

A recent Age UK survey found that more than three million older people in the UK aren't looking forward to Christmas this year, with more than 750,000 older widowed people often feeling more lonely over Christmas than at any other time of the year. The charity, which questioned 2,000 people aged 65 and over, estimates that around 200,000 elderly people will spend the holiday alone this year.

So, what can you do you to look after people in your own community who may be feeling isolated?

Chat to your neighbours

This sounds like such a simple thing to do, because it is. However, the modern age has seen us become more disconnected than ever from the people around us, with one survey finding that more than half of us barely ever speak to people living next door and close by. This can be especially tough on elderly neighbours, for whom these social interactions can be so important to them. So why not stop for a chat when you see them, or pop around with a mince pie?

Invite them for lunch

If you’re having a big meal for Christmas or New Year’s Day and have an empty seat at your table, why not offer it to somebody who might otherwise be on their own? If they can’t be with their family and friends, joining yours can transform their day, as well as giving you a neutral observer for the traditional family squabbles.

Become a volunteer

There are several charities out there which offer ‘befriending’ services where you can volunteer to visit vulnerable people, including those run by organisations like Age UK. The Community Christmas campaign encourages people to set up events for lonely and disconnected people over the festive season and you can advertise them on their website, the Casserole Club lets you share an extra portion of a home-cooked meal with older neighbours.

Send Christmas cards

In the age of WhatsApp and Facebook, the idea of sending Christmas cards might seem old-fashioned, but they can mean the world to people, especially if they aren’t used to receiving many. In 2018, Kindly organised a campaign that saw more than 4,000 cards sent to isolated elderly people at Christmas, with the personalised messages and letters really making a difference to the recipients.

Keep an eye on their wellbeing

It isn’t just Christmas that can affect isolated, vulnerable people at this time of year. Winter presents its own challenges, especially with illnesses, so checking in regularly with your elderly neighbours or people who live alone means you can keep an eye on their mental and physical health.

Offer to take them to the shops

Another reason elderly people can feel lonely in the winter time is that they get more isolated due to wet, windy and cold weather. Offering to help them get to the shops, whether it’s to buy groceries or presents for their grandchildren, is a lovely way to make sure they’re still getting out and about and enjoying company.

Brio Retirement Living is developing and operating brand-new retirement living communities in England and Scotland.

Brio Landale Court in Chapelton, Aberdeenshire, is now open and the first residents are moving in, while reservations are underway at Brio Beechwood Park in Stow-in-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, which is set to open in Spring 2020.  

Brio’s ready-made communities provide a genuine sense of community with the friendly on-site teams, amenities and schedule of activities. Retirees can buy their own home or rent and be part of a vibrant, safe and secure community, surrounded by like-minded friends and neighbours.

The first homeowners are now moving in to Brio Landale Court with reservations underway at Brio Beechwood Park. As Brio Landale Court springs to life over the festive season, as we welcome our first homeowners who are enjoying the festive delights on offer at Slate & Grain and the Christmas themed activities underway.