Spread the joy

From fes­tive con­certs to mu­sic videos, care homes are do­ing their best to al­le­vi­ate lone­li­ness at Christ­mas

EDP Norfolk - - YOUR MONEY - WORDS: Fay Wat­son

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

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