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'Tis the season to offer a helping hand

Posted on 22 December 2016

So advent calendars have nearly been eaten, the John Lewis team are probably already brainstorming their 2017 advert and it won’t be long before the Boxing Day sales are upon us.

 It might sound like I’m wishing Christmas away. I’m not – I adore Christmas. For me it’s the time where I see family, scoff Quality Street and have a good old time.

But for some people in society, Christmas isn’t a time to celebrate. It’s a time that simply reminds them that they have no one to pull a cracker, share a joke – or even have a conversation with.

Age UK report that 1.2 million elderly people (age 65 and over) in the UK suffer from chronic loneliness - and that’s just not at Christmas time. It’s a startling figure, and sadly one that has a negative impact on so many lives.

What is also important to remember, is that it is not just elderly people who suffer from loneliness. In 2016, it was reported that 7.7million people live alone with the added statistic that they are twice as likely to feel lonely. 15% of 45-54 year olds surveyed admitted to feeling lonely more than half of the time, with those 75 and over coming in at 13%.

Community spirit

There have been some lovely pieces in the news recently about various restaurants offering free Christmas dinner to people who don’t have anywhere else to go.

Caroline Billington is the founder of ‘Community Christmas’, an organisation who provides companionship told older people by running Christmas lunches, organising film viewings and setting up opportunities for people to meet up with old friends, and make new ones, with the hope that the friendship will live past Christmas Day.

'Campaign to End Loneliness' is a charity that also aims to encourage individuals and communities to come together to beat loneliness through various national and local campaigns. Since 2011, partners and a network of over 2500 supporters have come together to find practical solutions and influence policy to get people to understand the effects that loneliness has on people.

So, what can I do this Christmas?

It could be something as simple as a quick chat on the street or knocking on the door with a Christmas card. But you could also consider…

Be mindful of your neighbours – especially those who you know are living alone. Could you make their day by calling round for a chat and mince pie?

Organise a community walk - get everyone to wrap up warm and have a stroll round the block. Lots of time for interaction and working off a sprout or too

Offer a chair – have a spare seat at your Christmas table? Why not offer it to a neighbour or friend who you know will be on their own.

Shop around – could you help an elderly neighbour with their shopping? A short car journey and a walk around the supermarket could help on both a practical and interactive level. 

Community Christmas raffle – Raise money for a good cause and get to know your neighbours a bit better by seeing if they can donate prizes/buy tickets.

Who knows – your small gesture could have a huge impact on someone this Christmas to make sure they have a reason to smile this festive season.

Do you want to do more in 2017 to create a change in your local community? Do you want to make new friends, grow something amazing or be the driving force to make your neighbourhood a happier, healthier and greener place to live?

Our Community Project Toolkit can help! Click here to find out more. 

Post by Stacey Aplin - PR and Communications Officer

Groundwork UK