Helping Older Adults Stay Connected This Christmas
According to Age UK (2019), 1.5 million older people feel more lonely at Christmas than any other time of year. At a period that is supposed to be ‘the most wonderful time of the year’, isolation can feel even more painful.
People at an older stage of their lives may have experienced loss of loved ones and have become increasingly alone. Christmas can be particularly painful due to the loss of people they would have usually spent Christmas with. Christmas day is also the day where all the shops, cafes and libraries are closed, so older people may not be able to engage in their usual activities. The holiday period is a time when people get together, and everyone should be included in that.
Loneliness is something universal that can affect any of us. It can be defined as a state of mind rather than an emotion or physically being alone. One can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely or be alone but not feel lonely at all. As we humans are social creatures, we often have a desire and need to find social and physical contact with others to help us survive. Social contact can help us feel more energetic and positive about ourselves and improve our cognitive function and general well-being.
Often loneliness is caused by different situational variables such as losing a spouse or family member, moving to a new location or psychological disorders such as depression. However, in recent years, the obvious factor affecting loneliness and self-isolation has been the Covid-19 pandemic. Due to social distancing rules and guidelines it has been even harder for people to stay in contact with others.
Despite all the restrictions and changes to our normal life, globally we have been innovative in the ways we’ve been fighting loneliness and social-isolation. We have come up with more creative ways to be active and stay connected with each other. Access and platforms for online contact have improved and multiplied significantly. Regularly checking up on your friends and family through phone and video calls have increased tremendously as it has been made more accessible. Online platforms for various activities have been created or improved to connect people all around the world.
But also talking about mental health has become more important and visible in everyday life through all the different social media platforms. It’s also more accessible and easier for people to find information about mental health, loneliness and social-isolation as it is being highlighted on a daily basis.
Whilst The Blair Academy teachers will be bringing the Christmas spirit into care homes and celebrating with residents, here’s what you can do to help out your older neighbours and family members who may be feeling particularly lonely during this time.
Be mindful of older adults in your community who may not have people to spend Christmas with. Perhaps ask them and see what ways you can support them. Always ask and don’t assume!
Send a Christmas card to an older neighbour. Small gestures can mean a lot.
Donate to Age UK to help them fund telephone friendship calls to older adults.
Arrange to visit your older neighbours at Christmas time. Let them know when you are visiting so that they have something to look forward to.
Phone an older person. A simple phone call can make all the difference and let the person know they are not forgotten.
Find out about community Christmas gatherings in your area or better yet, run your own event.
We hope this blog has helped to raise awareness of loneliness during Christmas time. Together, we can help older adults feel belonging, warmth and connectedness over the festive period.
By Hoi & Charlie