Do they know it's Christmas Time At All

The clocks now retreated to signify that the winter months are imminent and the majority of us have visions of rushing around the shops and all the Christmas chaos that lay ahead. The weeks leading up to Christmas are obviously busy and you hope you are rewarded with a magical yuletide amongst family and friends. For children it is particularly exciting and many say “it’s what Christmas is all about”.

I would like to challenge this perception and highlight the fact that more attention should be given to an older person and they matter just as much if not more. The sad fact is for many the Christmas period is a time filled with dread. Feelings of being isolated and lonely makes December and January the most depressing time of the year with short dark days and long dark evenings and hostile weather many vulnerable seniors are more housebound than at any time of the year . Christmas time is no different than any other day of the week.

Research for the campaign to and loneliness estimate that half of over 75 year olds now live alone with many saying that their television is there main source of company and one in ten people report only having contact with family and friends on an irregular basis.

A forgotten generation who are at the mercy of others, Home Instead try and make a difference with spreading some Christmas cheer around the community. Our annual ‘Be a Santa to a Senior’ see’s local businesses and people from across local communities come together to make Christmas more special amongst those who are unable to have full and active lives.

By reaching out to older people who might not receive a gift at Christmas time we hope to make a small difference and give something back to those in the community.

Be a Santa to a Senior was first introduced in Home Instead in the UK in 2012 and since then over a thousand presents have been delivered. Last year at the East Herts and Uttlesford office we had a record success and managed to distribute gifts to many people living alone, in residential homes or in hospital. Our cars were loaded with gifts and photographs can be seen on our website. We are grateful to all that participated and hope they will want to be involved with us this year. I would also like to pay credit to Spellbrook primary and Birchwood secondary schools for their amazing contribution. But we would very much like to involve more schools this year. I think it’s vital that the young can help towards thinking of others at Christmas time.

It’s a fantastic opportunity to get the younger generation more thoughtful and less selfish. Good morals stay with you for a lifetime.

Research has shown chronic loneliness has a significant detrimental effect both mentally and physically. The government has less money to give to local councils to fund care at home for the elderly so more and more people are reliant on neighbours and local befriending charities, what most people forget is that we all have to get old one day. The little gestures of kindness that we show mean such a lot and it really isn’t that difficult or costly to make a huge difference. Here are some suggestions;

  • Take time to check on an older neighbour or friend
  • Set aside some time to drop in for a cup of tea and a chat on a regular basis
  • Take note-are they warm enough, is there food in the fridge?
  • Offer to pick up some groceries or a prescription
  • Support your local voluntary services in some way and contribute if you can to initiatives like ‘Be a Santa to a Senior’ donating a gift to someone who is unlikely to receive very much at Christmas. It is a fantastic way to spread some Christmas cheer.

How does Santa to a Senior work?

  • Local Home Instead offices partner with community organisations or charities to identify older people who might not receive a gift at Christmas
  • The Home Instead team then works with local businesses and retailers to help delegate the purchase of gifts by placing a small Christmas tree with one or more locations.
  • Each Christmas label is either written on with a gift suggestion e.g. pair of warm socks or left up to the people to choose what they want to donate.
  • Once a gift is bought it can be returned to a nearby designated centre for collection
  • Home Instead then arrange for the gifts to be collected, wrapped and delivered in time for Christmas.

Finally I am appealing to all those reading this to help us make this year’s campaign even better by donating a little something- for a senior a list of collection centres will be out in the press or you can view our website to find out where to leave your gift. We are not asking for expensive items but for a little something that you think an older person would appreciate.

We are also searching for new CAREGivers that are passionate and are willing to be trained to an excellent standard to enable a senior to have improved quality of life at home.

Please see our website for further information- or have a look on our Facebook page which is Home Instead East Herts and Uttlesford.