The gift that keeps on giving

By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead

CHRISTMAS has crept upon us once again and for most that means a time of celebration, time with families, presents and copious amounts of food and alcohol.

It is a time of anticipation, of sharing, of spoiling, of overindulgence and lots and lots of love and kindness. For children especially so.

But it is also a time for some for which none of the above is true and in stark contrast is a time of misery, loneliness, isolation and visits to the Foodbank.

Christmas, possibly more than any other time accentuates people’s feelings of solitude and leaves them feeling forgotten amid the frenzy of festivities.

We all know someone who will be spending Christmas by themselves this year, but how many of us have plans to drop in, say hi, write them a card or offer up a small gift?

Too busy? Don’t be. That small gesture could mean the world to someone that otherwise will see no-one, receive no cards, have no presents and no reason to make merry.

Some people may no longer have spouses, siblings, sons, daughters or grandchildren to enjoy the season with, and there may be no friends close enough to step in. Or they may simply have no friends.

Across the Bay, some front doors will remain closed and the outside world can only begin to imagine what is going on in those four walls. Just another unhappy day in a string of unhappy days, made worse by the jollity of everyone else.

The radio and TV can provide companionship of sorts, but is small beer compared to human contact and the repeated broadcast entreaties to be happy do not help.

For some, it will be their very first Christmas alone because of bereavement or a breakdown of a marriage and they, in particular, will be ill prepared for what it will be like.

For others, it will be yet another desolately quiet time whilst the world around them goes on as normal – seemingly uncaring, unaware that others are suffering.

Not everyone wants company and they have every right to be by themselves if they want to, but a lot of people don’t, they simply do not have a choice.

National figures show that more than nine million adults are often or always lonely. Fifty per cent of disabled people feel lonely on any given day.One in three people over the age of 75 say that their feelings of loneliness are out of control and for 3.6 million over 65’s television is the main form of company.

Those figures represent feelings throughout the year and at Christmas those feelings are magnified many fold. In a place like Torbay where nearly 50% of the population is over the age of 50 it is, for some, a huge problem.

Look around at your own neighbours, or people that you work with or see in the street and you will see that a few of them are indeed lonely.

Stop to talk to them, you may be the only person they have spoken to in a long time and if you take an interest in them, then chances are you will make their day if not their week or month.

At Ageing Well we regularly come across people whose only contact with others is via their doctor’s surgery or shop assistants, their carers or someone serving in their local café.

There are two weeks to go to the Big Day, but it is never too early to start looking out for people and today is as good a day as any to ask the question of someone you know who might be dreading the coming season.

You can act by yourself (there is no law against talking or visiting people despite what you might have heard) or you might bring together a few friends and neighbours to chip in.

All it takes is a little time, and a little understanding. By nature, the human race is  compassionate, companionable and kind, but sometimes we have to remind ourselves of that and what better time to do it?

It doesn’t cost anything, but its value is incalculable. Around the country there are an estimated 1.2 million older people who say they always or often feel lonely. In Torbay that means thousands.

Go on, you know you want to. Spread a little happiness.

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