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Look out for the lonely this Christmas

People in Solihull are being reminded to look out for the lonely this Christmas as loneliness can have a serious impact on both physical and mental health.

Loneliness and isolation can have a significant detrimental effect on a person’s health and wellbeing. This is particularly true for people over 85.  The team from national charity ‘Contact the Elderly’, based in Solihull, has been setting up tea parties in volunteers’ homes as well as at local GP practice Coventry Road Practice in Sheldon.  The Practice’s PPG members have been busy every month voluntarily running the tea parties, with CRB checked drivers picking up local elderly housebound patients. 

The Coventry Road Practice Manager, Carol McAndrew is thrilled with how the tea parties are benefiting the participants who have built up good friendships and enjoy this regular social interaction.

Dr Anand Chitnis, Chair at NHS Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group, said:

“Loneliness is heart-breaking at the best of times, but it can seem even worse during winter. Some people can feel incredibly lonely and isolated over Christmas, perhaps thinking of loved ones who are no longer with us.

“For some people Christmas is the most difficult time of the year and can highlight their loneliness or vulnerability. Older people, especially those who are more vulnerable, can become isolated in the winter months, but there are ways of overcoming loneliness thanks to the excellent support provided by organisations like Contact the Elderly and the PPG team at Coventry Road Practice in Sheldon.

“Everyone can play their part this Christmas in fighting loneliness by popping in to see an elderly relative, friend or neighbour to see how they are and check they have everything they need. Perhaps you could do a bit of shopping for them if they are stuck indoors or invite them round for a cup of tea and a chat. Other ways in which you can help are by making sure they have appropriate medicine in their medicine cabinet and that they are aware of the NHS 111 telephone urgent care service along with their pharmacist and GP opening times.”

Here are three steps that everyone can take to combat loneliness:

  • Plan the days when you will be alone, doing something/going somewhere you have been meaning to do/go. It can help you feel less lonely if you plan the week ahead and put things in your diary to look forward to each day, such as a walk in the park, going to a local coffee shop, library, sports centre, cinema or museum. Independent Age has published a guide to help you find free groups and classes in your area. You can order a free print copy by calling 0800 319 6789, or email advice@independentage.org
  • See if there is a project looking for Christmas volunteers. Many charities and organisations need help at Christmas. If you have spare time, you could spend a few hours working as a volunteer.
  • Stay active. Go out for a walk and take some exercise. There is evidence that as little as 20 minutes of gentle walking every day can help improve your mood, and getting out and socialising is a great way to keep yourself feeling positive.