For me, Christmas is the happiest time of the year. It’s the time when everyone seems friendlier and you’re more likely to get a smile when you’re just walking through the high-street. Whether it’s the classic songs we listen to year after year or the Christmas lights that make everywhere seem that little bit brighter, December has a genuine feel-good factor about it. But, unfortunately, it’s not like that for everyone. In fact, Christmas can be the opposite: it can be the loneliest time of the year.
However, a pub in Wimbledon is trying to put a smile on the faces of those who perhaps would otherwise not have anyone to wish ‘Merry Christmas’ to, by offering those who are lonely during the festivities a free Christmas dinner. The landlord of the pub believes that shops and Christmas adverts always focus on the ‘togetherness’ of families at this time of year which only makes being lonely at Christmas that little bit harder to cope with. They state that “It doesn’t matter if you never set foot in the pub again and never came here before, as long as you leave here happier than you would have been if you hadn’t walked in on Christmas Day, we’ve done our bit.”
In addition, Age UK is a leading charity in the fight against loneliness, which often disproportionately affects older people. They recognize that the problem of loneliness isn’t just something that happens at Christmas and so offer a befriending service where a volunteer visits or talks to individuals who perhaps don’t get a chance for a chat all that often – whether it be in person or on the phone. This service is fuelled by kind volunteers who are matched with older individuals with similar interests. If this is something you think that you or any of your friends or family would be able to do – even if it’s just a 15-minute phone call once a week to make someone’s life a little brighter – please do.
Age UK suggest that being lonely can be as detrimental to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Its harmful impacts on the health of those affected needs to be acknowledged so that more is done to help those who feel they are alone and have no one to talk to. Human society is based on communication. Often, when people lose the social networks they once had when working, and friends retire to different locations, it becomes difficult to maintain relationships. We need new ways of helping older people to establish new relationships in later life so that when old ones fade away, they won’t be left feeling like they’re by themselves, especially in this festive season.