Christmas is usually the time when the media starts to focus on those who are lonely and don’t have anyone to spend the holidays with. But people don’t just feel lonely at Christmas. According to Age UK, 1.2 million elderly people in the UK are chronically lonely and a whopping 1.7 million elderly people can go as long as a month without seeing a friend.
The reasons for their loneliness can range from anything like mobility issues to bereavement, financial struggles or mental and physical health problems. There are, however, lots of things you can do to make the elderly feel less lonely.
I’m lucky enough that I still have three of my grandparents and I always try to make sure that they know how much I love them and value having them in not only my but also Amy’s life. Of course, it’s not always possible to visit as often as I’d like but with my Nan and Grandad who live locally, Amy and I have found a little routine that works for us all. We pop around every Friday afternoon for cake and coffee, catch up on all the things that have happened during the week or have dinner together. We also talk on the phone all the time, go for walks or meet up for games or Amy’s school events. Making sure they feel involved in our life is something that is incredibly important to me.
My Nan from my Dad’s side of the family lives over five hours away from us, so we often only see each other a couple of times a year. We still make sure to talk on the phone once or twice a week to tell her about Amy’s milestones or anything else that we would share with her if she lived closer but it’s a little more difficult to keep in touch. Something that always makes her smile and lets her feel involved in our lives is letters with photos or postcards from days out – plus, she’s got my Dad’s siblings and their children around.
Help the elderly in your life feel less lonely
If you have an elderly person in your life that you think might feel lonely or isolated, there are a couple of things you can do help them feel less alone:
Introduce them to charities like Age UK or Independent Age who run so-called buddy programmes that pair elderly people with each other or volunteers to fight loneliness.
Try to visit your elderly friend or family member as regularly as possible and create a routine about your visits. That way they don’t only get to enjoy your company but also have something to look forward to.
Send postcards from days out, pictures the children have drawn and photos that you’ve taken. Elderly friends or family members love receiving ‘snail mail’ and even their favourite chocolate bar with a little note can make them smile. Sarah from Boo, Roo and Tigger Too
Check local websites and newspapers for activities or groups that the elderly person in your life might enjoy. This might be a group that meets at the local pool for aqua aerobics or swimming, a club that focuses on a joined hobby such as knitting or photography or simply a bunch of people who like playing a game of cards.
Set them up with FaceTime. Emma from Emma and Three says: ‘You may not be able to visit every day but FaceTime can be brilliant. My grandad got an iPad at 90 years young and we taught him how to use FaceTime. I would often hear Erin chatting in her room, peek in the doorway to see her chatting to her great-grandad. It was beautiful even when he was poorly in hospital, he was able to continue his chats with his great-grandkids.
Keep them in the loop with a family newspaper, letters or postcards. The husband of Victoria from Travel Vixta has a grandmother who lives far away in Germany. ‘I know she misses us terribly, so we send photos, family newspapers and cards as often as we can, at least once a month. She loves to receive them and knowing what’s going on with us in the UK, helps her feel less far away.
If they are fit enough, taking them out to a cafe or even just the supermarket can be a real highlight. My Nan takes a trip to the local shopping centre with some other elderly ladies once or twice a week and she loves getting out of the house and being amongst other people.
Let them know you think about them. Amy from All About a Mummy says: The kids and I help with a small local appeal where we put together Christmas gift bags for elderly people living in residential care which contain handmade cards and little gifts to help them feel less lonely over Christmas. My girls help deliver the bags and it is wonderful to see the faces of the recipients light up.
Setting them up with social media and technology can really help the elderly feel less lonely. Kate from Ever After with Kids told me: I took time to download social media on to my dad’s phone and show him how to use it, he now sees not only my updates and photos but those of all my family too. He now feels more in the loop and involved and loves it!
Erica from the Incidental Parent says: We have elderly neighbours and try to make time for them. I find you see them a lot in the summer when we’re all in the garden but not so much in the winter. Popping in or inviting them over for a cup of tea and a biscuit means the world.
If your elderly relative struggles with their memory, Cas from Frugal Family has a great idea for you. ‘My Nana started to lose her memory, so we made her a photo album and put a photo in it of everyone in our family. Underneath we wrote ‘Your son – Jim’ ‘Your daughter – Kay’ and she always kept it close to her.
What do you do to make elderly family members or friends feel less lonely? I’d love to hear your ideas!