A CHARITY is calling on people across Yorkshire to hold Christmas events to stop half a million older people from spending Christmas Day alone.
Friends of the Elderly say a third of older people in the region are affected by loneliness. It is supporting an initiative to log every Christmas Day event for older people on an easily accessible website, so that no one who wants to be alone on Christmas Day has to.
Last year there were 12 Christmas Day activities listed in Yorkshire on the Community Christmas website - but the charity said many more are needed this year.
Almost two thirds of people surveyed by Friends of the Elderly, said they feel they could do more to support older people at Christmas time. The charity said now is the time to start planning a community Christmas, and it’s not just about the turkey dinner, it is encouraging any activity that get people together, such as watching a Christmas film, opening up a village hall for a cup of tea and a mince pie, or organising a Christmas Day walk.
It wants local businesses to think about how they can open their doors to older people - pub landlords and restaurant owners could operate a ‘book alone but don’t dine alone’ system, call centres could open their staff canteens for festive treats, and local taxi firms could operate a lift scheme to and from Christmas Day activities.
Chief executive at Friends of the Elderly, Steve Allen, said: “We know that loneliness can have a devastating impact on older people’s lives and those we work with tell us that becoming isolated from a community they were once part of can be especially difficult.
“That’s why we’re calling on individuals, organisations and businesses to put on activities on Christmas Day to bring together older people in their community who don’t want to be alone.”
Community Christmas was founded by Caroline Billington in 2011, after she became aware of just how many of the elderly are alone on this one day of the year and how little was being done about it.
Since then the organisation has grown and last year 242 options for companionship were listed on the Community Christmas website - including 12 in the region.
These were organised by volunteers, care homes and pubs across the country and it is estimated that 5,000 older people benefitted from attending events across the UK.
The initiative was feature in The Yorkshire Post last year as part of the Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign, which encourages people to volunteer for support services.
Ms Billington told The Yorkshire Post: “There are a lot of organisations out there that offer Christmas lunches or parties throughout December, but not on Christmas Day, when people might be feeling at their most alone.
“Organising an activity does not need to be difficult. It could be as simple as opening up a village hall or bowls club and asking everyone who attends to bring a plate for a buffet, or arranging a time to meet for a walk and then having a cup of tea afterwards.
“Some people are quite happy to spend time or their own, but we know that many more would love the company. These connections that people make at Christmas can also continue throughout the year, helping those who are feeling lonely to start new friendships”
For more information or to log an activity, visit www.communitychristmas.org.uk