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.