Spread the joy
From festive concerts to music videos, care homes are doing their best to alleviate loneliness at Christmas
While Christmas is traditionally a time of family and celebration, for those of us who have lost people or who live away from our loved ones, it can be also be incredibly lonely. This is inevitably something that becomes more acute as we age, with the charity Age UK estimating that there are over 1,200,000 lonely older people in England alone, as well as their research in 2017 finding that nearly a million (928,000) older people felt lonelier at Christmas time.
Tackling such a pervasive issue is certainly an intimidating feat. Thankfully there are plenty of dedicated people who are helping to combat this. Through music, companionship and cultivated programmes of activities, retirement homes and sheltered living across the country are working hard to alleviate the stigmas of loneliness, as well as make this time of year a little more special.
One of the many ways that care home groups hope to reduce loneliness is by opening up their doors at Christmas to those who might be spending it alone. The nationwide Abbeyfield care home group runs an annual campaign called Coping at Christmas to publicise the way they do this. The initiative invites over 55s who live alone to come in and have Christmas dinner at some of their 500 care homes, as well as offering overnight stays and entertainment free-of-charge. The hope is that those who visit their homes and houses in the country will be offered companionship and laughter over home-cooked food.
It’s not just care homes getting involved in the Christmas spirit; sheltered living developments are also working hard to make sure no-one feels alone during the season. Villages run by Churchill Retirement Living for example link up with nearby schools and community choirs to arrange Christmas carol services in their Owners’ Lounges.
Music is one of the greatest tools that these homes use to spread joy at Christmas time, thanks to the memories it can help evoke, as well as the benefits it can have on people’s mood. This is the major ethos of charity Music in Hospitals and Care, a UK-wide company that puts on concerts in care homes throughout the year, with a special programme of Christmas events that often include three performances on December 25 itself thanks to their dedicated staff.
“The main aim is to spread the joy and the therapeutic benefits of live music to isolated and vulnerable individuals who wouldn’t be able to access it in the community,” junior fundraising officer Lucy Dinnage explains. And it really works. Lucy says they have had great feedback with people getting up and dancing, as well as breaking out into song, which creates a really fantastic atmosphere in the concerts. She says this is invaluable both for breaking down barriers between residents and staff, as well as providing an opportunity for relatives to see their loved ones enjoying themselves.
“It can be a really lonely time for some people and I think we often forget that,” she adds. ‘It’s really important to do activities like this because they do bring people together and they help people to not feel so lonely. It makes Christmas feel like a celebration.”
So, whether you’re concerned about your family having a lonely Christmas or you’re dreading the day yourself, it seems like we only need to look to our local retirement homes for the offer of a welcoming hand this festive season.
“Music is one of the greatest tools that these homes use to spread joy at Christmas time”
Retirement homes across the UK are ensuring everyone can have a happy Christmas