Samantha Alleyne of the Abbeyfield Society explains what they are doing to reduce loneliness at Christmas.

At Abbeyfield, we are very supportive of the aims of ‘Campaign to End Loneliness’.  In fact the Abbeyfield Society was set up with the sole purpose of alleviating loneliness for older people.

We all know that Christmas can be the loneliest time of the year.  So, for the second year, Abbeyfield is offering a free Christmas stay or meal for eligible older people who would otherwise be on their own. This year there will be even more – over 1,000 overnight stays and 2,000 Christmas lunches available at Abbeyfield homes across the country.

Our offer was taken up by many people last year. Mr Masters, aged 92, lives alone in Lee on Solent. He has no children and would have been on his own last Christmas – until he heard about Abbeyfield’s invitation. Instead, he spent Christmas Day with one Abbeyfield home, and visited another home the following week.

After Christmas he told us: “I liked it very much.  The people were very nice. It was a beautiful meal and I’d love to come again!”

Another gentleman Mr Betts, who is 87 and lives in Eltham, later told us “I live on my own, and would have spent last Christmas alone without this. We had a very good time – it was excellent and I’d definitely recommend it to others.”

It seems that loneliness in old age is not a recent problem. After leaving the Army at the end of World War 2, Major Carr-Gomm noticed that many of the older people in his neighbourhood of Bermondsey, South London, were lonely and isolated from the larger community. He cashed in his Army pension and bought a small house where he cared for three local elderly people. This house became the first Abbeyfield home.

Today the Abbeyfield Society is a registered charity and not-for-profit organisation with more than 700 houses across the UK, over 80 care homes and 2 nursing homes, looking after more than 7,000 residents.

If you know of anyone who might be interested in spending Christmas Day with us, you can find out more information and participating homes through our website.

You are eligible for ‘Companionship at Christmas’ if you are over 55, spending Christmas alone and currently live independently.