Being Old Doesn’t Mean Being Alone At Christmas

 “Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.”

– Dr. Seuss, How The Grinch Stole Christmas.”

Sometimes, being older can really suck. And there is no other period of the year that demonstrates this more cruelly is this forthcoming festive season. Too many of our elderly citizens will be spending this season alone again this year. And one kind thought or word or deed could transform their lives.

Nearly half a million people aged over 70 will spend Christmas Day alone this year because they don’t want to be seen as a burden, their families have moved away or they simply don’t talk to their children anymore. I only have two remaining family members that are alive and we don’t talk because we chose not to. I’m also lucky, I do have friends. Others don’t have that luxury.

A third of the elderly said their families lived too far away or in a different country while others did not want to put their family under any extra pressure at Christmas, which is, whilst being a kind and caring sentiment to have, does not improve their lot. Even worse, a small number admitted that they simply hadn’t been invited to spend the day with anyone. Astounding. And shameful of society as a whole.

The Royal Voluntary Service (RVS), a charity which works with the elderly, said Skype and texting were increasingly being used as a replacement for visits, and nearly half (47 per cent) of those surveyed by RVS said technology meant people make less effort to actually see each other. Whoever expounds on the wonders of modern technology obviously doesn’t know their arse from their elbows on this one then.

What about those who are unable to grasp modern technology or, know that they are old, sensible and sufficiently minded enough to not want to be involved with all of this happy-clappy internet/technological little insanity bubble we live in now? Good people, all.

It must be soul destroying. I recall my first job, at the wise age of 17 (not), and having to wait a year to begin my nurse training, I worked on what was then called a ‘geriatric unit’ at my local hospital. Some, if not all, of my patients were afflicted by that awful robber of humanity and decency, senile dementia. Some had come from workhouses for Christ’s sake. Imprisoned and made to work because of their abject poverty. And they were truly lovely people to know. I miss them terribly. And sometimes, they bit, scratched, decorated me with their bodily wastes, and screamed the vilest abuse imaginable.

But they remembered their families – even if the love was never reciprocated. And their most heartbreaking question after seeing the Christmas tinsel being hung?

Why? Where are they?

Whatever the past, you still remember. And isn’t it awful to think of half a million older people sitting on their own, hidden away, while the nation enjoys themselves? I try to help, and if you don’t why don’t you show older people that someone, somewhere, does indeed care and make sure they know this. It isn’t hard to do.

Because if you’re on your own when you don’t want to be at Christmas, it’s a really hard day. Isolation is a huge issue and this can be acutely and painfully felt if you are alone on Christmas Day; missing being with family and friends. There’s no better time to reach out and change someone’s life.

But don’t forget that it’s your life still, and do enjoy the season. Get drunk. Eat like pigs. Make up New Year resolutions that you’ll never stick to. Do insanely stupid things at the office party (been there) and act innocent (badly) after. Limit the fights though. Partay, dudes.

But just think about it, eh? Joyeux Noel.

 

P.S. – Find news of events around the country via www.communitychristmas.org.uk   or by calling 0844 443 0662. Advice is on offer if you feel able to organise an event. Or, if you are on your own this Christmas, contact them to see if there is an event in your area you can attend.

 

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