Christmas is on the horizon and everything being well we should actually be able to see people this year. For me it’s always a time of joy, I throw myself into Christmas wholeheartedly. I love the magic of it and try my hardest to fill the house with that festive cheer, decorations, scents, foods and traditions.
Last year wasn’t the worst Christmas for us, sure plans were thrown up in the air last minute but we got to see everyone we wanted to see before the big day by going out for walks and there may, or may not, have been travel mugs of mulled wine involved.
It did leave me thinking about the people who weren’t so lucky and though this year should be better on the socialising front, (there are rumblings in the background about restrictions being put in place but let’s hope they remain just that, rumblings) Christmas can be a very isolating time. Especially for the older generation.
Loneliness is a huge issue, Christmas without loved ones around does nothing but magnify that loneliness and that’s sad to think about. We don’t do huge family gatherings ourselves, Christmas day is just for the three of us and we see our wider family on the days around it. But what if there was no one else? That joy and magic that I so love about the season vanishes, but not in a subtle way because Christmas is a commercial success, so you can’t turn on the TV or radio without being reminded of what you don’t have.
There are a few simple things you can do to help. Pop in on a elderly neighbour and just say hello. Help them put decorations up if they want them and maybe offer to grab some groceries for them. I’m not saying you have to have them over for Christmas lunch, but just to know they aren’t alone and are being thought of is a big thing. Maybe get the kids to draw a card and drop it round in the morning. It’s just the little things but they help.
In years gone by we’ve actually had neighbours round for Boxing Day meals and always try to make sure our own family was never alone. That’s not the same for everyone and if I just think about the close I live on there is definitely more I could do to get to know my neighbours, some of whom are elderly and I have no idea of their names, let alone if they have family or not, so we will be making an extra effort with our cards this year.
Mobility can also be a big issue this time of year. It’s cold and it won’t be long until we get icy spells. Living rurally like we do buses are a rarity and streeghlights, local shops and in some parts of the village even pavements are non existent, so just getting out and about can be too difficult, adding to the feeling of isolation. You definitely need to drive to really get about where we live, but what if you can’t or you’re not confident. The nearest Doctor, Dentist, shop and pharmacy are 5 miles away and not a walkable 5 miles either.
At the start of the pandemic our village banded together and set up a scheme to make sure people had the shopping, prescriptions and anything else they needed collected and dropped off for those who couldn’t get out and that never stopped, faded away a bit, but remained an option. Now it also offers lifts to the nearest town so people can go and do their own shopping and attend groups, it’s a lovely thing to see. It doesn’t have to be on that scale though, it could just be one person occasionally offering a lift to another.
Getting to a stage where just living in your own home becomes difficult, stairs getting harder to climb and baths that were once a relaxing treat are now an impossible task, is an isolating feeling as well. Imagine not wanting to have family visit because you were embarrassed, once house proud and now not able to do many of the things you once did. I certainly remember being turned away at the doorstep by a great aunt once and later finding out why. It doesn’t have to be that way though, there is help available but sometimes it is easier for us to find that help and provide it to those who need it.
From big things like stairlifts, walk in showers and baths, even actual lifts from places like Age UK Mobility where buying those products helps Age UK’s charitable work. To smaller things like finding a window cleaner to pop by every couple of months or a cleaner to help out every now and then. It’s easy for us to find the right solution and help arrange it, but it might feel like an insurmountable task when you are elderly.
I guess the point I am really trying to make is that Christmas isn’t fun for everyone and all it would take for us to maybe make it better is to knock on a door, say hello and ask if there is anything we could do that would help. You never know, just knocking and saying hello might be the only conversation that person has had all day. Even if it turns out they are a social butterfly and absolutely fine wouldn’t it be nice to know another neighbour and have someone else to smile with? Like I said, Christmas always gets me thinking and we could all do more, myself included.
Disclosure – this is a collaborative post