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Steps to Prevent Loneliness this Winter

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If Christmas time for you means fun and excitement it can be easy to forget the people in (and not in) our lives who are on their own.

Loneliness isn’t just about someone feeling down, according to dementia care specialists, Helping Hands (https://www.helpinghandshomecare.co.uk/home-care-services/dementia-care/), “researchers rate loneliness as a higher health risk than lifelong smoking, with links between a lack of social interaction with the onset of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s; an illness which costs the NHS an estimated £20 billion a year. Loneliness has also been linked in medical research to heart disease and depression.”

Research carried out by Age UK suggests that up to 13% of the older population can be described as often or always lonely, and the wintertime is when it is much more prevalent. Loneliness can be a problem for anyone who is elderly, ill and especially if they have been bereaved, and who can’t necessarily get out as often as they would like to. So, what can we do to help to reduce loneliness this winter?

1.Get in touch

Feeling lonely isn’t just about being around other people in a physical sense. Just knowing that people are thinking of you can help to combat loneliness, so if you have elderly relatives or know other people who are struggling with loneliness, pick up the phone and give them a call to let them know that you’re thinking of them. One short phone call – or even a message – can have a massive impact on someone’s day.

2.Use your time off

If you have time off – at weekends or Christmas holidays, for example, try to spend a couple of hours visiting someone who could be struggling with being lonely. A local neighbour, friend or relative would probably be delighted with the company, and you could also try and help (especially during the winter) by picking up some shopping for them or taking round some hot food to make things easier (if you are cooking a stew or something similar, why not make an extra portion to take round?).

You could even stay and eat with them if you can. It might seem like a small thing to do, but it can make a huge difference in some peoples’ lives.

3.Encourage going out

In many communities there are clubs that encourage socialising and for people to go out. Weekly lunch clubs, for example, offer people a good, hot meal, company and a chance to get out of the house. Many of them will be able to organise someone to pick up and take back and this is a great opportunity to meet peers and make new friends.

Some people might prefer to go to a bridge club, WI, coffee morning, even church. There are often services that can help people to get around if they struggle with mobility and going out and being sociable is a massive step towards reducing the feeling of loneliness.

4.Stop and say hello

You don’t even need to go and visit someone to help them to feel less lonely. A quick chat in the street or in the queue in the supermarket can make someone’s day, help them to feel included and that people care. You might be the only person that they speak to all day – and it will almost certainly make you feel good about yourself too!

5.Volunteering

Another way that you can help people to fight loneliness this winter is by using your spare time to do some volunteering with a charity. There are a number of charities that help people to fight loneliness, especially over the winter, including Age UK, The Salvation Army and Community Network. It doesn’t matter how much time you can give – even one hour can make a difference and by helping these charities you can use what you enjoy doing or are good at to help people.

You might not necessarily be visiting people, but you can still help – collecting money, sorting clothes in a charity shop or driving, for example.

As the season of goodwill comes upon us, it is important to remember that the winter isn’t always easy for everyone. For those with mental health problems, mobility issues and difficulty getting around, it can be especially difficult, but it doesn’t take much to make a real difference in someone’s life.

Loneliness is a huge problem for many people in society but there is plenty that can be done to help to combat it. By being conscious of the prevalence of loneliness you can begin to do little things that can help to prevent it.

 

Other Sources:

https://www.ageuk.org.uk/documents/en-gb/for-professionals/evidence_review_loneliness_and_isolation.pdf?dtrk=true

https://www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/our-services/social-activities/lunch-clubs

https://www.salvationarmy.org.uk/

http://communitynetworkprojects.org/

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