December can be a very lonely time of the year for many. New figures from Age UK suggest nearly a million older people feel lonelier at this time of year.
Most of the magic in Christmas is the preparation, and the companionship. Here's a few ideas on how you can help keep the sparkle of Christmas alive for older people.
1. Christmas Decorations
Everyone who enjoys celebrating Christmas, likes to get the decorations and a Christmas tree up. Older people or people with a health condition may struggle with this. It's always nice to offer help, although never make assumptions on what someone can and can't do.
Elderly or less mobile people may struggle to get the Christmas tree out of the loft, or getting out to buy one, then moving it from the car to the house. Also, getting decorations up on the walls, they might still want to do it but it may be unsafe for them to do so themselves. Simply offering to help with these things can make a huge difference - don't forget to offer help with getting them down again too.
2. Christmas Cards
Writing and sending Christmas cards can be a difficult task if your hands are less stable and sight is decreasing. It can be nice to offer to help write and send an elderly persons cards with them. It's also nice if you can also read the cards they receive out to them if needed.
If you have a crafty elderly friend or relative, you could have a creative activity session of making your own Christmas cards. This can be great with someone who is living with dementia as you could combine this activity with using reminiscent Christmas images from old magazines or printed from the internet.
3. Attending Local Christmas Events
It can be harder to get out and about when you have less energy or mobility, getting to the Christmas Bazaar, a Church service, a community Christmas lunch, coffee morning etc. might seem like a huge task, and dangerous if it is icy outside. Ask if the person has seem any events they would like to attend and offer your help.
If you know of someone who is unable to get out or see what is happening locally, it is a nice idea to have a look and let them know too. An outing, even for an hour or so can make all the difference.
4. Helping with Christmas Shopping
Christmas gift or food shopping can be hard for someone who is older a may have less mobility. It might help to show an older person you know how to use the internet for shopping - they could find more bargains online too.
Alternatively, you can offer to accompany them on a trip to the shops, or help them to grocery shop. This also means you can help to carry shopping.
5. Preparing for Guests
Having guests over around Christmas time is all part of the Christmas cheer - if you know someone who is alone though, it will be really nice to ask if you can visit and spend some time with them. If you know someone who could perhaps appreciate a helping hand around the home to ensure all is prepared for receiving guests, it is a nice gesture to offer. It might be that you can help by doing a quick hoover, or moving some furniture.
6. Christmas Day Meal
Christmas day can be lonely if there is no family to stay with for the day, or friends nearby. If you know someone who may be lonely and you can do a spare setting at the table this year, that's a wonderful way of helping spread the Christmas joy.
Sunlife who provide over 50s life insurance, went to meet Elaine who lives next door to Beryl, watch this wonderful video of why Elaine invites Beryl over every Christmas, and helps her with Christmas preparation.
If you don't have elderly neighbours, or have much time to be involved in your community, then you could help by raising awareness of an organisation called Community Christmas, they organise community Christmas dinners to ensure that no older person should be alone on Christmas day, unless of course they want to be. You can help spread the Christmas spirit by ensuring people know about them.