Lonely This Christmas? Volunteers Reach Out to Seniors at Xmas

Christmas time is an exciting time for most – the festive period calls for cosy family gatherings and spending time with the people that matter most to us.

However, despite Christmas Day being a mere four weeks away, almost three quarters of people living in Leeds don’t know how they will be spending the day, with more than a quarter of us feeling anxious and worried about making plans over the festive season.

Research, commissioned by the charity Contact the Elderly, has found that only 27% of people in Leeds have fully confirmed their Christmas plans for the year’s festivities. Over half of Leeds residents spend their Christmas at home, and a third of respondents say that Christmas involves visiting older relatives. A tiny 1% of Leeds respondents spend Christmas volunteering in the local community.

Contact the Elderly is an organisation that targets isolation and loneliness through face-to-face contact and wants to show how societal pressures affect families during the festive period and the subsequent impact on elderly family members who are left to spend Christmas alone.  

This research has been announced at the same time as a new partnership between Contact the Elderly and Community Christmas, an organisation with an aim of ensuring no older person spends Christmas Day alone. Community Christmas posts different events open to older, vulnerable people in the community who would otherwise spend Christmas alone. These events range from community Christmas lunches to a formal sit down dinners in places such as Rainbow Junk-tion, a community café in Leeds.

Community Christmas was established in 2011 by community transport volunteer Caroline Billington. Last year, Community Christmas had over 500 events listed, supported by the Big Lottery Fund, Waitrose and the Jo Cox Foundation.

Discussing the merger, Meryl Davies, CEO of Contact the Elderly, said: “Everyone recognises that Christmas can be a difficult time of year, particularly for people who are isolated or vulnerable.” It is a perfect partnership, as Contact the Elderly have been fighting against loneliness among older people for over 50 years.

Contact the Elderly is known for its tea parties – it has helped over 100,000 people since it was started in 1965. The charity is held-up by nearly 12,000 volunteers – from drivers who take guests to and from events, to tea party hosts. Community Christmas will allow eager volunteers to set up their own community projects and get involved over the festive period.

Davies continued: “People are making Christmas Day special from within the heart of their own community and we hope that everyone involved will want to stay part of Contact the Elderly all year round.”

The founder of Community Christmas explained that since volunteering on Christmas Day nearly 10 years ago, she knew that she wanted to dedicate her time to creating something that will leave a lasting impact on older people for years to come. She wants to emphasise that it is simply about getting people together at Christmas, people who would otherwise spend the day alone.

Busy though we all are, it’s important to remember that for some, the Christmas period is fraught with anxiety and loneliness and that, where possible, we should reach out to our local community and try and bring people together.

More information on Contact the Elderly’s work and volunteering opportunities can be found here.


Yasmin Filali

Image: [Pixabay]