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By Debbie le Quesne

Elderly isolation: Meaning of Christmas needs to change

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Fact: A million older people live alone and some 500,000 spend Christmas Day alone.

It is a shameful indictment against society.

Fact: If we all did a little to change this we’d get a lot done.

But for many that would mean a change in their perception of what this festive season means

Fact: The Lennon-McCartney duo in their 1966 Eleanor Rigby begged a haunting question . . . All the lonely people, where do they all belong?

Some of us are still asking that question but I fear the numbers are getting smaller vas our family loves become more and more self-centred.

Fact: Investing into family at any time of the year is wholly good.

In a civilised society, however, I’m sure we’d all like to think that those who are left without family are embraced by a caring community.

Fact: In a survey by charity Friends of the Elderly, which asked about attitudes towards older people, found nearly one in four admitted they wouldn’t be including any elderly relatives, neighbours or community members in their seasonal celebrations and activities.  When asked what prevents them from visiting the elderly 44 per cent said that they don’t have enough time.

If we are to change what is around us, we too need to change and our vision become a little less introspective.

I applaud anyone who gives time to the elderly at Christmastime. Friends of the Elderly is not an in-your-face charity. My neighbours probably have never heard of them or their work.

Many older people will experience a cold Christmas this year; not only struggling to cope with escalating heating costs, fuel allowance but also by the absence of human company.

Friends of the Elderly aims to address the loneliness.

Volunteers will be phoning those spending Christmas alone, sending out cards and gifts and holding Christmas lunches and parties.

Our Supporting Friends service will be giving grants to community groups.

Everyone can make a difference. The meaning of Christmas for many of our elderly is very different to what it is to younger people today.

I’m not here to argue a theological point of the Christmas message – but part of its endearing spirit is “goodwill to all men,” a central pillar to the nativity narrative.

Perhaps we could raise our heads above the tinsel, feasting, presents and family commitments to focus on how we could possibly make Christmas brighter for the half million who will have only their own company on the 25th.

In the meantime, take a look at this video –  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6K4MPrp9FpI

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