Christmas is the loneliest time for 80,000 elderly

The Argus: A Christmas meal for the elderly held at Sussex County Cricket Club A Christmas meal for the elderly held at Sussex County Cricket Club

More than 80,000 isolated elderly people across Sussex will be eating their Christmas dinner alone this year. Charities are urging volunteers to help make sure every lonely pensioner hears a friendly voice this festive season. Bill Gardner reports.

Most people spend their Christmas celebrating family, friendship and togetherness.

It’s a time for enjoying the company of others, perhaps helped along with a glass of sherry, a slap up meal and a mince pie or two.

But for thousands of elderly people across Sussex, the festive season is the most painful time of year.

Lonely and isolated, with no one to talk to, they sit in their cold homes thinking back on good times long gone.

Too proud to call for help, many have lost contact with their friends or family and are almost invisible to the services designed to take care of them.

According to estimates by the charity Age UK, there are more than 80,000 elderly people across Sussex who will be lonely this Christmas.

Charities are appealing for volunteers to knock on doors to make sure no one spends the festive season without hearing a friendly voice.

At a special lunch for isolated older people, held at the Sussex County Cricket ground in Hove on Wednesday, pensioners admitted they dreaded this time of year.

After her husband died, 84-year-old Lilian Dell moved into sheltered housing in Seaford.

No one to talk to

She said many elderly people were resigned to spending the rest of their days alone.

She said: “When you get lonely you get used to it. I’ve got to accept that I had a life, but now I don’t.

“There are certainly a lot of older people who will be spending Christmas time without anyone to talk to.”

However, Mrs Dell warned that the idea of sending volunteers round to the homes of isolated elderly people had its drawbacks.

She said: “A lot of older people don’t want to have people knocking on their doors at all hours wishing them Merry Christmas.

“Some people get stuck in the mentality that they are alone and that’s that. They can be their own worst enemy sometimes.

“But of course they then stay lonely. It’s difficult to know exactly what to do.”

Bad for health

According to the charity Campaign to End Loneliness, being lonely is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Isolation is also associated with poor mental, physical and emotional health, including increased rates of cardiovascular disease, blood clots and an increased risk of dementia.

Socially isolated and lonely adults are more likely to undergo early admission into residential or nursing care.

Leah Mynett from Friends of the Elderly, who organised the Hove lunch alongside sponsors Travel Places and IEP Financial, said the issue of isolation was “a huge problem”.

She said many older people had too much pride to call for help, making it difficult to identify those most in need.

She said: “Many of these people lived through the war. They were brought up not to make a fuss.

“So we have to be proactive to rescue them from their loneliness.

“No one deserves to spend Christmas without anyone to talk to.

“Sometimes I think we forget that these are just ordinary people, real people with real lives and real stories.

“They had families, jobs, everything. We shouldn’t just leave them behind just because they’ve grown old.”

'Completely forgotten'

Ms Mynett claimed many isolated people had been “completely forgotten” by society.

She added: “People don’t consciously forget. It’s just we all have incredibly busy lives and some people simply slip under the radar.

“We had one old man that hadn’t been outside for a year until he came to one of our lunches.

“It’s so sad.”

At the special lunch, the pensioners clapped and sang along as an aging choir serenaded them with a selection of Christmas carols.

But some complained that cuts to services had cut them off from meeting other people.

They said money for minibuses dried up when charities and local authorities tightened their purse strings during the downturn.

Muriel Gurneri, 67, from Hove, is the sole carer for her daughter who has special needs.

She said: “The YMCA used to fund our lunches. Then they said they couldn’t fund them anymore.

“It’s already difficult for older people to meet up, but without transport it’s almost impossible.”

Appeal for volunteers

To try to help solve the problem, Contact the Elderly, a national charity solely dedicated to tackling loneliness and isolation among older people, is launching an appeal for volunteers in Sussex.

The charity organises monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for small groups of elderly people, aged 75 and above.

Volunteers would need to spare a few hours each month to drive older guests to its monthly tea parties in Haywards Heath and enjoy a cuppa and a cake themselves.

Contact the Elderly’s Surrey and Sussex development officer Julia Rivas said: “Once a month, each older guest is collected from their home by a volunteer driver and is taken to a volunteer host’s home, where they join a small group for tea, a chat and companionship.”

Hayward’s Heath residents interested in volunteering for Contact the Elderly as a driver once a month, can contact Julia Rivas on 01273 401569 or email her at julia.rivas@contact-the-elderly.org. uk.

l If you or someone you know is experiencing loneliness, contact Brighton and Hove Age UK on 01273 720603.

What do you think? Email letters@theargus.co.uk

See the latest news headlines from The Argus:

More news from The Argus

Follow @brightonargus

The Argus: Daily Echo on Facebook - facebook.com/southerndailyecho Like us on Facebook

The Argus: Google+ Add us to your circles on Google+

Comments (16)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

11:45am Sat 15 Dec 12

Algeria Touchshriek says...

The sad thing is you have all these children who ignore their elderly parents' isolation but fight over the last fiver when then pass away.

My advice to these elderly folk is leave your money to charity if your children don't bother visiting.
The sad thing is you have all these children who ignore their elderly parents' isolation but fight over the last fiver when then pass away. My advice to these elderly folk is leave your money to charity if your children don't bother visiting. Algeria Touchshriek

12:04pm Sat 15 Dec 12

campotolox says...

Could not have put that better myself but you still have that tinge of guilt because i was not brought up that way,bit sad the younger people of today,merry christmas.
Could not have put that better myself but you still have that tinge of guilt because i was not brought up that way,bit sad the younger people of today,merry christmas. campotolox

12:24pm Sat 15 Dec 12

P.Dant says...

Some of these generic old people think Christmas is a pseudo religious,commercial
ised sham that should be dispensed with going forward.
Some of these generic old people think Christmas is a pseudo religious,commercial ised sham that should be dispensed with going forward. P.Dant

12:38pm Sat 15 Dec 12

campotolox says...

Ye whatever,you might get there one day,nice to call the more caring generation generic, whatever that means,really glad coming to the end of my tether so dont have to rely on doughnuts like you!!

,
Ye whatever,you might get there one day,nice to call the more caring generation generic, whatever that means,really glad coming to the end of my tether so dont have to rely on doughnuts like you!! , campotolox

1:33pm Sat 15 Dec 12

Maxwell's Ghost says...

My mate volunteers for a charity where he visits old folk and plays chess, scrabble, chats etc in their homes.
He said its amazing how many of them are living in one room in big old houses and who have very successful adult children who never visit.
He says blokes seem to be the worst at visiting parents as they assume their sisters will take on that role.
Not sure if that's true or not.
My mate volunteers for a charity where he visits old folk and plays chess, scrabble, chats etc in their homes. He said its amazing how many of them are living in one room in big old houses and who have very successful adult children who never visit. He says blokes seem to be the worst at visiting parents as they assume their sisters will take on that role. Not sure if that's true or not. Maxwell's Ghost

1:47pm Sat 15 Dec 12

campotolox says...

Hi M,G,
na dont agree with that, daughters do the same thing, just depends on the situation,your mate does such a good job just giving these people someone to talk too,never done that and now people are so busy doing there own thing they forget where they come from,dont know if this makes sence but i am 95,give me a break please,happy christmas!!
Hi M,G, na dont agree with that, daughters do the same thing, just depends on the situation,your mate does such a good job just giving these people someone to talk too,never done that and now people are so busy doing there own thing they forget where they come from,dont know if this makes sence but i am 95,give me a break please,happy christmas!! campotolox

1:57pm Sat 15 Dec 12

lorrie1 says...

The thing is that its NOT just old people that will spend x-mas alone!
Many young people will not be around family or friends, if they have any.
Many wont be able to afford any food either.
Still, try to have a merry x-mas to all.
The thing is that its NOT just old people that will spend x-mas alone! Many young people will not be around family or friends, if they have any. Many wont be able to afford any food either. Still, try to have a merry x-mas to all. lorrie1

5:25pm Sat 15 Dec 12

Achoo! says...

To be honest, I think that a lot of people wouldn't knock on their elderly neighbour's door for fear of exactly what the lady in the article describes, that they don't want people 'knocking at all hours'. Sometimes you can't do right for doing wrong.
To be honest, I think that a lot of people wouldn't knock on their elderly neighbour's door for fear of exactly what the lady in the article describes, that they don't want people 'knocking at all hours'. Sometimes you can't do right for doing wrong. Achoo!

5:41pm Sat 15 Dec 12

bluemonday says...

there lonely 365 days a year,not one,they probably don't even celebrate it,or birthdays,it's sad
there lonely 365 days a year,not one,they probably don't even celebrate it,or birthdays,it's sad bluemonday

6:03pm Sat 15 Dec 12

Orlando Faark says...

I've made a careful plan to avoid the misery of 'the custard and mashed banana years". It's called smoking.
I've made a careful plan to avoid the misery of 'the custard and mashed banana years". It's called smoking. Orlando Faark

6:53pm Sat 15 Dec 12

george smith says...

Christmas aside the other 364 days, isnt that what the green party supposed to be caring for, rather than pet projects, such as felling trees in Wild Park and spending vast amounts of money on sheep.
Christmas aside the other 364 days, isnt that what the green party supposed to be caring for, rather than pet projects, such as felling trees in Wild Park and spending vast amounts of money on sheep. george smith

7:23pm Sat 15 Dec 12

Morpheus says...

I really do not understand this. If people are lonely it will be on everyday not just Christmas Day. The lunch reported here was last Wednesday, how can that have anything to do with helping people who are alone on Christmas Day. Where are the families of these old people?
I really do not understand this. If people are lonely it will be on everyday not just Christmas Day. The lunch reported here was last Wednesday, how can that have anything to do with helping people who are alone on Christmas Day. Where are the families of these old people? Morpheus

9:24pm Sat 15 Dec 12

HJarrs says...

Something is amiss with society when so many are lonely.

It is only a few years since a church I am familiar with stopped putting on the Christmas meal and food parcel for pensioners due to lack of demand, a mark of progress. Sadly, many of my generation are sleepwalking into an old age of poverty due to high housing costs, debt, declining pensions etc. I think we will see a return to the food parcels soon.
Something is amiss with society when so many are lonely. It is only a few years since a church I am familiar with stopped putting on the Christmas meal and food parcel for pensioners due to lack of demand, a mark of progress. Sadly, many of my generation are sleepwalking into an old age of poverty due to high housing costs, debt, declining pensions etc. I think we will see a return to the food parcels soon. HJarrs

9:32pm Sat 15 Dec 12

getThisCoalitionOut says...

Not all of the elderly are saints - some have been downright nasty pieces of work all their lives and that could be why they're on their own

Also some may not tell their kids the truth - so the ones who are successful may not have a clue about their parents true circumstances - if the kids are being lied to ie "I'm absolutely fine son, I'm going to stay with friends for Christmas" they cannot be blamed.

All people are different - sometimes things aren't what they seem.
Not all of the elderly are saints - some have been downright nasty pieces of work all their lives and that could be why they're on their own Also some may not tell their kids the truth - so the ones who are successful may not have a clue about their parents true circumstances - if the kids are being lied to ie "I'm absolutely fine son, I'm going to stay with friends for Christmas" they cannot be blamed. All people are different - sometimes things aren't what they seem. getThisCoalitionOut

12:37am Sun 16 Dec 12

funkyyoyo says...

what i find bizzare,but typically happens is an elderly person has no family visits,but when they pass away,there soon going
through there bank statements and pulling up the floorboards,i should know i had many elderly customers in my businness years ago where this happened,when they asked me for my services,i blanked them!! disgusting how old folk are treated in this country,utterly disgusting!!! no wonder weve ferell scum in this country
what i find bizzare,but typically happens is an elderly person has no family visits,but when they pass away,there soon going through there bank statements and pulling up the floorboards,i should know i had many elderly customers in my businness years ago where this happened,when they asked me for my services,i blanked them!! disgusting how old folk are treated in this country,utterly disgusting!!! no wonder weve ferell scum in this country funkyyoyo

9:08am Sun 16 Dec 12

Sussex jim says...

Judging by the apalling English of some posters on this site, I think we should be usefully employing old folk part-time to give lessons in grammar and punctuation.
Judging by the apalling English of some posters on this site, I think we should be usefully employing old folk part-time to give lessons in grammar and punctuation. Sussex jim

Comments are closed on this article.

click2find

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree