For many elderly people being home alone has become their everyday life.
As the nights draw in and the weather turns colder, it can be easy, between the school runs, to shut ourselves away in our houses and hibernate for the winter, forgetting about those living only meters away that will be spending another day alone.
Families are living further apart, with grandparents often moving to warmer climates. Many children grow up, without experiencing what it means to care for older members of a family. Forming relationships with other adults is an important part of a child’s social development. Not only will they experience a wider variety of viewpoints, skills and interests, but also interacting with different people can bring out different facets of a child’s personality. Often, a normally timid child will delight in showing off their talents to an older adult, who in turn is happy to provide endless rounds of applause.
Everyone wants to bring their children up in a caring community and taking a moment to check on an elderly member of the community shows children the joy that simple, small everyday things can bring. Even a smile and a wave to the neighbour who can no longer venture outside can brighten their day and let them know that someone cares.
There are many organizations across the country that provide essential services, help and care for Britain’s elderly. One organization that is solely dedicated to tackling the loneliness and isolation that seniors suffer is Contact the Elderly.
We organize monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for small groups of older people (aged 75+) who live alone, and volunteers within their local community, offering a regular and vital friendship link every month.
Each older person is collected from their home by a volunteer driver and taken to a volunteer host’s home for the afternoon. The group is warmly welcomed by a different host each month, but the drivers remain the same which means that over the months and years, acquaintances turn into friends and loneliness is replaced by companionship.
Our tea parties are a real lifeline of friendship for our older members who have little or no contact with any family or friends. They bring people of all ages together, develop fulfilling friendships and support networks, and give everyone involved something to look forward to each month.
I’m on my own 24 hours a day, except for the milkman. You see no-one, hear no-one, except for the milkman. Man wasn’t meant to be alone. It’s no exaggeration – the Contact gatherings are the one bright light in my life – it’s fantastic. The volunteers are lovely personalities and you are welcomed into people’s homes and we sometimes sit in a nice garden. You meet other elderly people, have a chat and a laugh with them. It’s heaven.
So, consider opening your family’s home and sharing some warmth and friendship this winter. Your family could gain a “grandparent” in the process.
There are many other ways to care for our seniors in the community:
- Pay attention to their routines. If your elderly neighbour’s milk or newspapers are still outside one day, knock on the door to check that they are okay.
- If there are icy or snowy conditions, encourage your children to clear the pathway.
- Check that they have adequate heating and food.
- Consider putting up a small bird feeder near a window so that they can enjoy watching the local wildlife.