Caring for people who may be lonely this festive time

published on 20 Dec 2018

The Salvation Army believes we can all do our bit to support people in our communities. Assistant Director of Older Peoples Services Andrew Wileman shares these five essential tips for anyone who is worried about someone being lonely this festive time. 

  1. Find your community connections. There is a direct link between isolation, community life, and health, so find out about your community’s connections. You can find The Salvation Army in communities all over the country and we run lots of Christmas meals and group activities for older people as well as families. We also run a variety of services that are open to everybody – church is a great source of friendship and a great place to meet new people, and Christmas is a perfect time to start.    
  2. Start a conversation. It's not always easy to know how to help. A good start is simply to stop and talk to your neighbours. People who are isolated or lonely sometimes only have a television for company and might not have the opportunity to speak to someone else for days, so make time for conversations. And be mindful of their age, if you think an older person may have trouble hearing or has memory problems make sure to speak clearly (but don't shout!). Pause between sentences and questions to give them the opportunity to digest the information. And allow a little extra time for them to respond - don't hurry them.   
  3. Offer practical help. If you know an older person who lives alone, rarely leaves the house, has recently suffered a bereavement, is in poor health, disabled, or doesn't seem to have close family living nearby – ask them if they need any help with tasks such as shopping, posting letters, picking up prescriptions, or dog-walking. Invite them to events or offer to accompany them or give them a lift to activities or doctors' and hospital appointments, the library, hairdressers or faith services.    
  4. Share your time. Volunteer for a local Salvation Army centre or a community organisation that supports older people. These often offer ‘befriending’ schemes for isolated older people, and rely on volunteers for one-to-one contact as a telephone ‘buddy’, visitor or driver, or hosting social events for groups.   
  5. Above all - don’t pass people by. We’d encourage anyone who’s worried about someone being lonely or alone this Christmas not to pass them by – find more information or help by contacting a local Salvation Army church or community centre, or get advice from organisations such as Age UK and the Silverline, both of which offer a telephone advice line.