It’s that time of year again, when, for most of us, love it or hate it, Christmas shopping beckons with all those things we need to buy to ensure we and our loved ones have a perfect Christmas. It can feel like a real chore. Especially when the weather is cold, dark and wet and perhaps we are feeling tired and have low energy as the year draws to a close.
But imagine how it would be if you couldn’t get out to the shops to get the things that you need, and you didn’t have a clue how to do online shopping and you didn’t have a computer or internet connection anyway. On top of that you keep hearing all the time – on the tv, the radio, in the newspapers about Christmas, what other people are doing and the preparations they are making. Perhaps you haven’t even got anyone to buy a present for anyway and you are going to be spending Christmas day quite alone, like most of your other days. On top of that you can’t do very much except watch tv which is telling you constantly about the big event that you will be missing out on.
This is how life is for many of our lonely and isolated clients, and together with cold and dark days it can mean that this time of year is even more difficult than usual.
If you think about it then, your extra shopping for Christmas is not such a big deal. And aren’t you lucky being able to go out and about, as and when you please, without giving it a second thought? How about making a positive difference to the life of someone who doesn’t have this luxury by volunteering with Volunteer Link? You would be spending up to two hours per week with someone who is lonely and isolated and has few visitors. Our volunteers can be lifelines for our clients.
Our next Volunteers Induction training is on Wednesday 16th January, 9.30 am to 3 pm at a venue in Hanwell. Please contact the Volunteer Coordinator on firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
There have been a number of articles in the media recently about older people and loneliness. Age UK says that 1.2 million older people are chronically lonely and that this has an adverse impact on mental health, and the challenge will increase as our population ages. Caroline Abrahams, Age UK charity director says: “Loneliness can have an impact on older people’s health and wellbeing. And this is particularly true when it comes to mental health, with older people’s depression often brought on by, or exacerbated by loneliness.”
The spotlight on older people initiative – a group of nine older people’s organisations led by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness – says that more than half the users of over-50s social networking site Gransnet, who say they are lonely, have never discussed loneliness with anyone.
Added to this, according to Age UK in the next 20 years, England’s over-85 population is set to rise from nearly 1.3 million people to just under 2.8 million.
A weekly phone call or visit from a volunteer are among the solutions to help ease the loneliness epidemic according to campaigners and this is where Volunteer Link can play a vital role.
Volunteer Link operates and supports people who live in the the London borough of Ealing.
Volunteers are linked with lonely and isolated clients and they visit on a regular basis to provide companionship and support. The Scheme provides an excellent way to break the loneliness cycle that so many older people experience.
Our own research backs up more formal studies. The Volunteer Link 2016 Client Survey showed that after receiving regular visits from one of our volunteers 79% said that they felt less lonely and 58% reported feeling happier. One of our clients described the difference before and after being visited by a volunteer as ‘I was so down, lonely and isolated, (I now) feel less depressed’.
The findings of recent studies and the fact that the numbers of older people are steadily increasing means that Volunteer Link volunteers are needed more than ever. By giving just a couple of hours of their time each week a volunteer can make a huge positive difference to the life of a lonely older person, increasing their chances of avoiding depression and leading a happier life.