It is easy to get cynical about the seasonal news obsession with loneliness. Loneliness (particularly in older age) has become a favoured subject in December for news organisations looking for a human-interest counterweight to articles on the weather, or dwindling shopping days before Christmas. But it is important not to forget that there is truth behind the headlines.
We all know that there is no special season for feeling lonely: human contact is a basic human requirement, and we need it all the time to stay healthy. John Cacioppo, an academic on our Research Hub, describes this well in this TED talk. But feelings of loneliness can be heightened and exacerbated because we know that Christmas is a time we are expected to gather together. Loneliness is a subjective experience after all, and we should be prepared for the holiday season to be particularly hard for some of us.
This is why, despite the cliché, Christmas is a time we should be particularly vigilant in looking out for loneliness and be aware of those at risk. Those at risk of loneliness can include, but are not limited to, the bereaved, those without close family, those unable to get about, and those in hospital or care homes.
To help support those at risk of being lonely over the holidays, many organisations are putting on special Christmas events. Below are some of the services, we have been made aware of, this year:
The Silver Line: a new support line for older people which is open day and night, all year round, including Christmas day. Calls are free on 0800 4 70 80 90.
Community Christmas: a website which aims to list and share all the different events happening over the Christmas period. The website has advice for those hoping to hold a Christmas event, as well as listings for where and when events are happening.
Friends of the Elderly: an older people’s charity that runs a number of services and care homes, Friends of the Elderly will be holding Christmas lunches in their care homes. At these events they will be laying extra tables for older people from the local community to join in.
Abbeyfield: a charity that provides accommodation and support for older people, Abbeyfield is offering free festive lunches and overnight stays to older people who would otherwise be alone during the Christmas period.