Care at Christmas
How the industry is working to make the festive period joyful
While Christmas is a time for family and celebration, for those who have lost loved ones or live far from them, it can be a very lonely one. This is something that becomes more acute as we get older. The charity Age UK estimates that there are over 1,200,000 lonely older people in England alone. Thankfully, there are plenty of dedicated people helping to combat this, with retirement home and sheltered living accomodation staff working hard to alleviate loneliness, and make this time of year special.
Many host activities each year, with staff members buying gifts for residents and opening them together on Christmas Day. Nativity plays, with both residents and carers dressed up for a show for relatives, which are even broadcast online, has become a great way to engage the whole family.
Many care home groups also open up their doors at Christmas to non-residents. Abbeyfield runs an annual campaign called Coping at Christmas. The initiative invites over-55s who live alone to come and have Christmas dinner. The aim is to offer companionship and laughter over home cooked food to those who are welcomed into its over 500 facilities in the country.
And, it’s not just care homes getting involved in the Christmas spirit, sheltered living developments also work hard to make sure no-one feels alone during the season. Villages run by Churchill Retirement Living link up with nearby schools and community choirs to arrange Christmas carol services in their lounges. Residents have even recorded their own Christmas song.
Music is one of the greatest tools these homes use to spread joy at Christmas, thanks to the memories it can help evoke, as well as the benefits it can have on mood. This is the ethos of Music in Hospitals and Care, a UK-wide charity that puts on Christmas concerts in care homes every year, often including December 25, thanks to its 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, she says, with people getting up and dancing, and breaking out into song, creating ‘a really fantastic atmosphere’.
‘It can be a really lonely time for some people and I think we often forget that,’ Lucy 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 family having a lonely Christmas or dreading the day yourself, retirement homes are there offering a warm welcome this festive season.
‘It really works – people get up and dance and break out into song’