The Season of Goodwill?

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

At the heart of almost every family’s Christmas is giving. Whether it’s presents, good cheer or simply some of your time, it’s usually a special few days when you forgo your own wants to share and give to others. For some it simply extends to their family and friends but there are a few who like to show kindness to others as well.

According to Age UK, approximately 1 million people over 60 feel lonelier at Christmas[1]. While it’s a situation that may sadden many used to spending the holiday surrounded by loved ones, there are actually less people than we’d think who would be Givingwilling to help out and accept a lonely elderly person into their home. We recently carried out a survey of over 2000 people to investigate how people’s good intentions actually compare to their charitable actions over the festive period.

The general consensus was that while some people have already helped out an elderly person in the past, many have never thought about it or would feel comfortable or have the correct situation to accommodate them in their Christmas festivities. When asked, 72% of people said they would be happy to donate to charity in order to keep an elderly person from being lonely this Christmas yet only 27% of people actually do.

Unfortunately, not everyone has immediate family or friends to celebrate the festivities with. While 75% of people wouldn’t willingly leave an elderly relative alone for Christmas, it can often be too difficult to reunite with them due to cost, time and travel restraints. In fact, there are many people out there, especially the elderly, who have no relatives to spend Christmas Day with at all. However, there are a few ways that we can all offer a helping hand.

Sharing your Christmas meal

Inviting an elderly person round for your Christmas meal may not be something that has ever crossed your mind, yet 66% of people taking part in the survey said they would consider it. Unfortunately this is yet to translate into genuine invites, with only 26% of people having ever actually done so; many claimed they had family commitments, knew no elderly person to invite or simply had no idea how to go about organising it.

While it may be a daunting experience to invite someone you don’t know at all or very little into your home, it will be greatly appreciated and cherished by them. It can also be greatly rewarding for you as you are not only doing something charitable but will also have the opportunity to learn about the person’s life and perhaps strike up a lasting friendship. 

Giving them a ring

If you can’t spend Christmas with certain family members, it is common for many to ring or video call relatives instead on Christmas day, an opportunity to catch up and share some Christmas cheer. However not all elderly people still have this support network and the silence left by the lack of the phone ringing only adds to their feelings of loneliness and isolation. Out of the group we surveyed, only 11% have ever volunteered to phone an elderly person over Christmas despite 70% saying they would be willing to.

Volunteering

For those without a large family or who simply want to give something back to their communities, volunteering on Christmas Day at a homeless shelter, retirement home or community centre is not uncommon. Nevertheless our survey revealed that over 82% of people have never volunteered on Christmas Day, and whilst 35% of those who had not volunteered said this was due to wanting to spend Christmas with their family, 46% said it was down to no other reason than that they didn’t want to, leading to the question - are we losing our community spirit?.

 

Helping out the rest of the year

Loneliness isn’t just something that the elderly might feel at Christmas. It can affect them all year round and often lead to depression and a poor quality of life. There are many ways to help support older people who may not have or be in contact with close relatives:

Donating

There are many age charities who help elderly people live independent and quality lives, funded by public donations. Of the people surveyed, around 10% of them have or currently do donate monthly to an age charity. While many may choose to support other causes, a large proportion of people cannot afford to regularly give money to others. In fact, those surveyed with a household income above £55,000 were twice as likely to donate money to charity. Similarly, those people in the 45-55 age bracket donate around £35 a year- about £5 more than any other age group.

Shopping

Aiding an elderly person with chores such as shopping can be a real help. Around 83% of people claimed they would be willing to do this, especially around the busy festive period when shops tend to be busier and less inviting to those who are frail or have a disability. It can be a one off aid or something you do weekly, and almost a third of people surveyed have already done this in the past. Adding a few extra things to your basket whilst you’re at the shops may be a huge help to an elderly person, who may find the chore challenging or daunting.

With only 25% of people regularly donating to age-related charities, it shows that more can be done to tackle loneliness in the elderly. It may be that people are busy with their everyday lives and don’t consider such good will gestures until the festive season approaches, but making small efforts throughout the year can make a big impact by the time Christmas arrives. If time has passed you by but you’d still like to offer company or a helping hand at this time of year, it’s not too late. 70% of people are unsure of how to go about helping an elderly person despite the good intentions of the majority. You can find out exactly how you can help by contacting Age UK. Just a little of your time can bring a lot of happiness to those feeling lonely, and there’s nothing better than the warm feeling of giving at Christmas.

 

Notes

Research commissioned by RIAS and carried out by Censuswide between 28 November – 5 December 2016. Total sample size was 2,216 respondents aged 18-55. The survey was carried out online.

  1. http://www.ageuk.org.uk/latest-news/nearly-1m-older-people-feel-lonelier-at-christmas/

 

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