By Debbie le Quesne

Sustaining dignity with a Sunday lunch special

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Dignity Action Day (February 1) is almost here – the chance to make difference in the way we think about those who are most vulnerable.

I find one of the most undignified things is loneliness, particularly with the elderly. Image having no-one to visit, most of your relatives live far away and the majority of your old friends have passed away.

For many of us, Sunday is a day to relax with friends and family and enjoy Sunday lunch before re-starting the working week.

But for 1million people aged 65 and over in Britain, Sunday is the loneliest day of the week.

How horribly sad.

A study conducted by charity the Royal Voluntary Service (formerly WRVS), shows that loneliness experienced by older people is compounded by lack of contact with their family and 13 per cent always feel lonely on a Sunday because it’s such a family day.

Previous research by the charity found that, for ten per cent of older people, their nearest child lives more than an hour’s drive away (40 miles plus), making that daily or weekly contact even more difficult.

The survey also showed that 33 per cent of older people miss sitting down to a meal with their family and 37 per cent of older people don’t enjoy eating a meal without being able to share it with someone.

These heart-rending facts are released as the Royal Voluntary Service launches the Big Sunday Lunch.

The initiative runs form February 7 – 9 and its aim is to encourage people to host a meal and invite along older friends, family or neighbours to raise money to help older people in their community.

Big Sunday Lunch gets backing from MasterChef presenter and 2 Michelin star Chef Michel Roux Jnr, who has suggested a favourite recipe for those holding an event.

Albert Roux said: “Food is a really important way of bringing people together to enjoy each other’s company and have a great time. It can be all too easy to take for granted the pleasure of sharing food; many older people don’t have the luxury of enjoying a meal with their family or friends. Holding a Big Sunday Lunch event is a great excuse to gather your nearest and dearest to enjoy breaking bread together and raise money to help tackle loneliness among older people at the same time.”

Sharing a meal is not too difficult for most of us. It’s a simple act of hospitality. What’s not to like? Food is on the menu.

Anyone interested in taking part can download a fundraising pack to help with ideas, along with tips on how to organise and promote their own event by visiting www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/bigsundaylunch.

Many of the care issues surrounding the dignity of our older people, especially those in need of care, will involve training – and the WMCA does a good deal of it.

But this event is the price of a meal or two, needs no special training and anyone can contribute.

Royal Voluntary Service supports over 100,000 older people each month to stay independent in their own homes for longer – a central pillar of dignity in the community.

I think it’s time to get the cookery books out.

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