I don’t want to be lonely this Christmas…

Hi folks, Sam here! I’d like to start of this month’s blog with a very warm season’s greetings to you all; the countdown to the holidays (whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, kwanza, or nothing specifically) is well and truly on. Whilst this may be a joyous time for most of us, it can also be a time dreaded or even feared by many others.

The downside to the festive season & Cyril’s Story:

For instance, as this time of year draws nearer, charities like Cyril Flint Befrienders have a special place in our thoughts for those vulnerable individuals who might be spending it alone. The very reason why our charity was founded rests on this premise. For those who aren’t aware, Cyril Flint (our charity’s namesake) was an elderly resident of the Trafford area, who was in receipt of home care support. It was through this, that it came to light that Cyril was about to spend his 23rd Christmas alone since the passing of his wife; he had no real family to rely on. Cyril’s story not only evoked a huge amount of support from the local community, but made us want to help those in a similar situation, and so began our befriending service to offer a friendship to lonely/socially isolated individuals in the local area.  The bittersweet element of our origin story though is that Cyril sadly passed away before receiving his befriendee.

Statistics of loneliness across the festive season:

Cyril’s situation is not uncommon however. According to the ‘Independent’, approximately half a million elderly individuals over 75 are said to spend the festive period alone. This can be a result of various reasons, for example being estranged from their children/other family, or feeling like they don’t want to be a burden on those who they do have contact with. Moreover, other figures have shown that an estimated 1.4 million elderly people feel completely cut off from society, with about 3.6 million admitting their television is their only source of company around this time of year. I am sure most of you will agree that statistics like these are truly shocking!

Video Clips surrounding this issue:

I have included a few links below to videos regarding the issue of loneliness around the festive period, to give you all a more tangible insight to the reality of it all:

https://youtu.be/w0CDMQ7qHaQ

https://youtu.be/TzYnPtyG_U4

What you can do to help combat loneliness among the elderly at this time/how you can look after your elderly relatives during winter:

I have compiled a list below of little things we as the general public can do to help those elderly individuals who are at risk of being alone at this Christmas:

  1. Give them a phone call-  If you know someone is going to be alone on the day and you don’t have time to visit, then a simple phone call can be effective. It will let the person know that someone cares and is thinking of them.
  2. Don’t assume- Do not fall fool to believing that because an elderly person looks fit and able that they’re doing okay. Loneliness is not a physical ailment and can effect anyone. Just pop in if you can, have a cuppa and a chat. It will speak a thousand words to that individual.
  3. Community Christmas’- This charity provides companionship to older people on Christmas, by running a community Christmas Lunch event, joining others at a local pub, or popping round for tea and cake. This is a chance for the elderly person to meet up with old friends, or make new ones that will last well beyond Christmas.
  4.  Have space? – If you do have room at your family home for Christmas, and are aware of someone who will be spending the holiday alone, then offer up a seat. Sometime the elderly person might decline because they think they will be a burden; in this case, make it clear that you would be happy to have them and that it is not an inconvenience to you.
  5. ‘Spare Chair Sunday’- ‘Contact the Elderly’ run this initiative so that for Sunday Dinner, lone elderly individuals have someone to sit with, and have company, with homes hosting them a free chair and food.
  6. Send a gift- Even if it is only for your neighbour, it still spreads that Christmas cheer.

Also, if you are in a situation where you are close to a lone elderly relative, and host them for Christmas, please take the following steps to ensure that they are generally safe during the winter when not with you:

  1. Account for their reduced mobility- Although many elderly individuals may be fit and self-sufficient, for many mobility can be a huge issue. Frosty walkways/slippery pavements are a key feature of this time of year and prove to increase risk of serious injury to vulnerable people. As well as the physical hurt, it can also create a lot of stress and worry. Therefore, a good place to start is by ensuring that your loved ones have appropriate footwear for diverse weather conditions. Moreover, salting or sanding their paths can be a great help. If they use any walking aids/frames taking time out to provide them with extra support is vital.
  2. Ensuring they keep warm- This time of year can be particularly chilly, and if your elderly relative catches a cold they are statistically more likely to develop pneumonia and other complications. This down to weaker immune systems. One way to combat this is to make sure your loved one is wrapped up in warm winter clothing; you might want to take them shopping for an appropriate wardrobe. Also, because you might not be able to be with them at all time, regularly checking on their home heating system when you can is of great importance. The elderly person by themselves might not go to the lengths of hiring a repairman, again, because they might not want to seem an inconvenience. It can prove fatal.
  3. Visit/Check-up regularly- Christmas can be a busy time for all of us, and in this hustle and bustle it can be easy to forget about our elderly loved ones who may be alone the majority of the year. It is important therefore to set some time aside to visit them during the festive period (even if you are hosting them on Christmas Day itself). This might be a phone call, or a brief visit. The smallest of gestures can make the biggest impact.

Our Christmas Raffle!

On a more positive note, the festive season is meant to be one filled with joy; a time to come together and celebrate with family and friends! Why not therefore take part in Cyril Flint’s Winter Raffle! Wouldn’t it be great to win a fantastic prize in the lead up to Christmas, whilst also ensuring that you’re contribution to it will help continue our invaluable service? Tickets can be bought on our website: www.cyrilflint.org (under our ‘Winter Raffle’ tab). They are only £2 for a single!

If you are feeling generous in this season of good will, you could also donate to us by using the following link to our donation page: https://cyrilflint.org/donate/. Whether you want to give big, or small, truly every little helps! If you would like a quantifiable idea however, £14 pays for a volunteer to visit a lonely and isolated older person in their own home for a week.

I would like to end this blog with a big thank you to all who have taken the time to read my work since I started working on them in July!

I hope you have a lovely festive period whatever you’re getting up to! But remember to keep an eye out for those who may be lonely.

Sam.

A time of reflection!

Hi all! Samantha here once again with your monthly instalment of the Cyril Flint Befrienders’ Blog.

Can you believe we have reached the 11th month of the year already!? Before we know it these 30 days will be over, Christmas will be around the corner, and a new decade will soon be welcomed in. Therefore, I think that the perfect theme for this month’s post is about ‘reflection’. Reflection is an important part of all our lives; it allows us to unpack key events, showing gratitude for all the positive things we have encountered throughout the year.

Cyril Flint Befrienders has certainly had a very busy 2019, and therefore a lot to be grateful for/proud of. I have compiled a little list of the highlights of this past year to show the extent our accomplishments:

  • Trowers & Hamlins’ Pub Quiz-

    Back in February, the ‘Trowers & Hamlins’ pub held a quiz night in aid of Cyril Flint Befrienders. The night was a great success, raising over £1200 in order to help combat loneliness and social isolation among our local elderly community.

  • Accumulator Challenge-

    This May saw us launching our third annual accumulator challenge! Our amazing teams put on fantastic fundraising events, turning their £50/100 start ups into an honourable profit! In total we raised £1,961.20. This year our thank you event for the accumulator challenge will take place on 5th December, acting also as our annual Christmas party! On the night we will reveal the winner of our three prize categories: most funds raised, most innovative idea & best publicity piece. This is set to be a wonderful night of celebration; a fitting end to the year.

  • Cuppa & Company Events-

As usual, 2019 saw the continuation of our ‘Cuppa & Company events in Sainsburys’ Café Sale, on the first Thursday of each month. This has been a great way for befrienders and befriendees alike to come together for a few hours, have a hot drink, and a nice natter. Our September edition of the event saw the fabulous Susan Rowland take over as the event host! Her work has been greatly appreciated, and we are so happy to have her join our dedicated team of volunteers.

  • We welcomed Sam-

    In July of this year we extended a warm greeting to Sam! Sam is our new fundraising Coordinator here at Cyril Flint Befrienders, and since starting has become an invaluable asset to our team. Her great organisational skills, and business brain, have saw her put on amazing fundraising event. Keep an eye out for more over the Christmas period.

  • Piccadilly Bucket Collection-

Speaking of Sam’s great work, on 27th September she organised a bucket collection at Manchester Piccadilly train station, for the charity. Our event volunteers banded together to help raise an astonishing £67 from generous commuters.

  • Cyril Flint’s Night at the Races/ Summer Raffle- 

On the 4th October we invited you all to saddle up for a ‘Night at the Races’ in aid of the charity, and it certainly was not one to forget! We had food, drink, horses galore, and of course our raffle draw. A big shout out to Helen who won the best dressed woman of the night. The event (including the raffle) raised a grand total of £662. Let’s hope this streak of fundraising triumph continues in the coming months!

  • Our skydiving superheroes

A huge round of applause has to go to out to our brave fundraisers who answered the call to take the leap in our skydiving challenge this year. In total we had Rebecca and Jon take part, and collectively they raised a skyrocketing total of £1500.

However, it must be said that the great work we’ve done throughout 2019 could not have been achieved without the kindness and generosity of our supporters! We truly appreciate the relationship we have with you all and hope that this can continue to be built upon in 2020 and beyond.

A suitable way to help us out for the remainder of this year however would be, if possible, to hold a fundraising activity of your own! The chilly weather is the perfect opportunity for this believe it or not. You could organise a work place winter jumper day, or set up a hot drinks stand, with all the profit raised continuing to run a vital service for lonely/socially isolated elderly people in the south Manchester/Trafford areas.

I hope that you all have a brilliant November, and once again a huge THANK YOU to all who assist us in any way.

Until next month,

Sam.

Autumn Friendships

Hi Everyone, Sam here!

Autumn; a beautiful time of year! The leaves are vibrant in a mix of colours falling all around us, it may new a new term at school/university for many, and there’s that lovely nip in the air that reminds us that we’re alive. Autumn in many ways is a season of change, and therefore it’s nice to have things in our lives that remain a constant; our friends being one of these.

It is important therefore to cherish time with our friends, and it can in fact be highly beneficial for us spending time with them also. According to a survey from Carnegie Mellon University, quality time spent with those we care about the most can act as a stress buffer in our brains, thus putting less of an allostatic load on our bodies; this has been linked to the lengthening of one’s life. Friendships also give us a greater sense of purpose which in turn can generally nurture our mental wellbeing.

Subsequently, I have taken the time this month to compile a list of some autumn activities that you can do with your friends. However, as the work done here by Cyril Flint Befrienders showcases, friendships can come in all shapes or sizes too (whether this be a mix of ages, abilities etc) and so I have split the list into things to do out and about, and things that can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own home; this means that everyone can benefit from time spent with a friend regardless of their circumstance.

  • 5 things to do out and about with friends this autumn:

  1. Take a nice walk around a local park:

    This time of year is probably the most aesthetically pleasing of all, therefore take advance of the fresh air and go on a stroll with a friend. It really is a great way to catch up, appreciate nature, and keep fit, all at the same time.

  2. Enjoy a warm drink at a café:  

    What better a way to get in out of the cold, and warm the soul, than with a hot drink of choice. This is also a great setting for having a chat and take part in some people watching! My personal favourite autumnal drink is a chai tea latte; the rich flavours of nutmeg, clove and cinnamon really give me that fuzzy feeling inside.

  3. Attend Oktoberfest:

    Do it like the Bavarians and attend your city’s local Oktoberfest alongside a pal. Beer, Bratwurst and Brass Bands makes this a certified good time, with an atmosphere like no other. Manchester’s Oktoberfest for 2019 is set to take place from Weds 16th– Sun 20th

  4. Take up Photography:

    With all the natural beauty that comes with this season, why not go with friends on a day out taking some nice pictures- this could be of the leaves, wildlife, or architecture around your city. You don’t need to be a seasoned pro or have the best equipment; just getting out/exploring your locality, and having a physical memory of that day will be a great mood booster.

  5. Take a trip to a local market:

    There are plenty of local food/produce markets in many areas each month that you can explore with your friends. These are great for just passing the time whilst getting to try some in season goods, and homemade treats from local businesses. In South Manchester, the West Didsbury Makers Market takes place on the last Sunday of every month in Withington Community Hospital car park. Moreover, the Altrincham market is open all week expect Monday and Wednesday; each day hosts something different also, for example local produce on Tuesday and a Farmer’s market on Friday.

  • 5 things to do at home with friends this autumn:

  1. Have a cosy movie night:

    Sometimes it’s the simple pleasures in life that can be the best! A perfect autumnal evening with a friend could involve putting on shared film favourite, wrapped up in a warm blanket, with some snacks.

  2. Board Games:

    This can be such a nice way to pass an evening with friends! Board games come in many of varieties, whether its monopoly or scrabble, you’re always guaranteed a laugh, especially when it comes down to some healthy competition. Whoever loses can make the brews!

  3. Cook a meal:

    Nothing screams autumn to me more than comfort food! So why not get together with a friend and make a bowl of something to warm the cockles. It has been proven that sharing food with company can severely improve one’s mood also. A go to autumn classic for me is a chilli! I’ve included a recipe below to get you started:

Ingredients

1 large onion, chopped

2 cans (16 ounces each) kidney beans, rinsed and drained

2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) diced tomatoes, undrained

2 cups cooked and crumbled ground beef

1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce

1 medium green pepper

3 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon baking cocoa

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, optional

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a large saucepan coated with cooking spray, sauté onion until tender. Add the remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

  1. Carve some pumpkins:

    Autumn is the season of all things spooky! So this addition to the list, although quite wacky, can be a lot of good fun, especially when doing it with a friend. Not only does it give you something to do but you also will have cool outdoor decorations for all to see!

  2. Pamper night:

    This one applies to both guys and girls alike! A great night in with friends could involve getting into cosy clothing, with a facemask, cup of tea, and an accompanying playlist of your favourite tunes. It really allows everyone involved to just unwind, catch up, and show that you don’t need to be out and about to have a good time with those closest to you.

Cyril Flint Befrienders value good quality friendships, currently facilitating over 110 across the Trafford & South Manchester areas. These friendships honestly bring so much joy to the lives of those who would be struggling with loneliness and social isolation otherwise. For example, in our 2019 feedback survey, one of our befriendees quoted that:

“Cyril Flint has really given me the boost in my mood that I’ve needed! My experience with my befriender has been great; we get on so well. A normal visit usually just consists of a nice chat with a cuppa, although sometimes we also listen to music which is super enjoyable. I would recommend this service to anyone who may be in my position and feeling lonely or isolated.”

Being a relatively small charity however means that we require generous donations to keep the service we offer running. Therefore, why not help us out and host a fundraising event in aid of us. A good example might be getting all you colleagues together for an office coffee morning/bake sale? Cyril Flint Befrienders even have our own branded packs for these events which you can receive from our fundraising coordinator Sam at: [email protected]

I hope you all enjoy the rest of the month ahead, and maybe try out some of the many suggestions given above.

Until next time,

Sam.

Lets Celebrate… It’s Friendship month!

‘Volunteering has helped me feel part of the community’

‘I wanted to do volunteering as I have worked with elderly people as a speech and language therapist and as I had some time I wanted to spend time just chatting as I can’t do that in my job!  I have also done a counselling course recently and I think it’s a shame that so many people are isolated nowadays and thought I could use skills I gained on my course to be a good listener.  I also thought it would be nice for me to meet an older person where I live as I have no family in the area and it has helped me feel part of the community more.

I have gained a lot from talking to Olive.  She gives me a different perspective on life in that she is looking back over the years and is so proud of how her children have turned out.  It has made me appreciate my own family and my children more.  I find it interesting to talk to her as she has dementia and I find myself often checking back with her that I have understood what she means as sometimes her meaning is not totally clear – I enjoy doing this as I like a bit of problem-solving!  She has made me appreciate the little things in life, like being able to get out and about as she can’t do this anymore.  It has also put things in perspective more for me – I can see myself in the future sometimes when I talk to her and it makes me want to make the most of what life offers.

She is good company for me too and I enjoy her sense of humour – she is always telling me to keep out of trouble!

I quite enjoy seeing her in the day room at the home because I know some of the other elderly residents there are listening to our conversation and I hope they gain something from it too.  It has given me the opportunity to chat briefly to a couple of them whilst I am there and to chat to members of staff a little too.’

A lovely account from Tamsyn, a volunteer befriender. If you want to find out more about becoming a befriender, or know a lonely older person who may need a friend, please contact us on [email protected] or by calling 0161 942 9465

Friendships really can change lives!

Dorothy F testimonial photo

Our volunteers really are invaluable! We want to say a huge thank you to you all for your dedication and for the impact you have in your local community! Please have a look at this touching account from Dorothy, on how she feels her life has been enhanced by her befriender.

If you want to get involved or know an older person who would benefit from a befriender, please get in touch on 0161 942 9465 or by emailing [email protected]