You shouldn’t be lonely this Christmas – by Amy Shephard
For many, Christmas is a time when the house is inundated with family and friends. A time when mismatched chairs are squashed around a table to make room for siblings, parents and long-distance cousins making the trip to toast the end of another year.
If you, or someone you know is experiencing social isolation, please do something about it
For others, the festive period can be hauntingly quiet. People from all walks of life spend Christmas alone — older Islanders who have lost loved ones, those with social anxieties and people who simply don’t have a big network of people in their lives. And while this is an issue which should be tackled in every month of the year, the pang of loneliness can be even more prevalent at Christmas. If you, or someone you know is experiencing social isolation, please do something about it. Everybody should have somebody to turn to.
Social opportunities during the festive season tend to increase. If you’re the one feeling lonely, consider reconnecting with old friends or reaching out to family members to catch up. Try to speak up about how you’re feeling. Why not attend a carol service, a wreath-making session, or volunteer for a cause close to your heart. Don’t be afraid to attend events on your own. You might be surprised how quickly you find people with common interests. If you suspect somebody you know is feeling lonely (at any time of year), reach out to them. Pop round for a cup of tea, offer to join them as they do their Christmas shopping, or invite them along to a festive event. Perhaps it’s a neighbour you don’t know so well. Why not drop them a Christmas card and open up the line of communication.
The Isle of Wight has a great range of incredible organisations who do their bit to combat loneliness. Men in Sheds, U3A, Board IOW, Mountbatten, Home Instead, Independent Arts, Age UK, WOW Women’s centre and Community Action IW are just a few that make a difference to so many people facing social isolation.
In a world where everyone seems to live life on a screen, board games provide a way of interacting and connecting with people on a level that is rarely possible these days. They bring strangers and friends together, in a super competitive round of Monopoly, or working cooperatively to save the world in Pandemic.
Newport business, Board IOW opened this year, with an aim to provide a community hub where everyone was welcome. They work with groups and agencies to provide just that – a safe place for anyone to just walk in, enjoy some company and join in with others.
“We have seen first-hand the impact of social anxiety and loneliness,” said owner, Karen Longhurst. “We work hard to encourage people from all parts of the community to come together in a safe, social setting where everyone is welcome. We started running Social Nights, but quickly found part of the worry and anxiety was around whether people would be the only ones attending! We’ve since started a private group on Facebook where people can discuss upcoming events and arrange their own get togethers with likeminded individuals.” Board IOW looks forward to welcoming more people in the door to make new friends and enjoy the unique atmosphere on offer.
Local care provider, Home Instead Senior Care, says that companionship is key to a healthy life. They surveyed more than 2,000 over 65s, and found nine in ten of them say regular companionship would help them to stay mentally and physically healthy for longer. Despite this, it was revealed many older people felt lonely with over a quarter of over 65s saying they spent eight hours alone daily.
‘A quarter of over 65s say they spend eight hours alone daily’
John Oswald, owner of Home Instead Senior Care said: “A large part of our service involves providing companionship and we see just how life changing it can be for people who are feeling alone. If you can spare a few minutes a week to call a parent or check on an older neighbour, it could mean the world to them.”
Mountbatten holds many events over the festive period, providing a warm, festive welcome to all. Join the Mountbatten family to celebrate with a delicious Christmas Day lunch in the wonderful Mountbatten Café, which is always open to the general public. Open from 10am to 4pm on Christmas Day for a traditional, three course dinner (£30 per adult, £15 per child). Booking is essential, please call 217342. Everyone is also welcome to join Mountbatten for the Christmas Day Service at 11.30am, Wednesday 25th December in the Chapel at the hospice.
Celebrate the lives of those who have died by dedicating a light in memory of someone who will not be with you this Christmas. Light up a Life is for everybody – not only for patients and families supported by Mountbatten. All are welcome to dedicate a light on Mountbatten’s Remembrance Tree and attend a special Light up a Life service at 4pm on Sunday 1st December at Mountbatten Hospice. Light up a Life services are being held throughout December in churches and venues across the Island, including Mountbatten’s Annual Carol Service being held at All Saints’ Church, Ryde at 6.30pm on Wednesday 18th December. A Christmas concert performed by Company B will also be held on Thursday 5th December at 7.30pm in the John Cheverton Centre. Tickets £10. See the full list of events on our website, or at Mountbatten.org.uk.
Beacon Magazine has started to build a list of local organisations and activities, which can help combat loneliness. Search our online list for something local to you, at www.iwbeacon.com. If you know of any events you would like to add to the list, please send them to us at [email protected], or tag us in them on Facebook: @iwbeacon.