As many people believe and song lyrics tell us that Christmas should be the ‘most wonderful time of the year’. However for many older people, the winter and Christmas months are dreaded as they know that they will be spent alone. We often feel lonely when we feel we don’t have strong social relationships or are unhappy with the ones we have. Factors associated with loneliness in older age can include social networks, neighbourhood characteristics, health and individual characteristics. Age UK have found that loneliness can be as harmful to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Age NI’s Good Vibrations research found that there is a strong link between men’s aged 50+ wellbeing and strong healthy relationships. Relationships are the Golden Threads that bind us together, acting as a protective factor to our mental wellbeing this winter. Staying connected and doing activities with older people helps to nurture and strengthen existing relationships. For older people that are struggling with loneliness, finding someone to connect with can sometimes be difficult. The best opportunities are to connect with loved ones or younger relatives. Connecting with nieces/ nephews, grandchildren and other relatives can help older people to feel more involved in family relationships and more connected to other people in general.
Christmas can be a busy time for many, but if you have a spare 30 minutes in the evening or on a Sunday, think about an elderly neighbour or family member that may be feeling lonely.