Christmas can be a difficult time for the millions of us who, research says, feel lonely some or all of the time. What’s on TV or in the shops, what the people around us are doing or our memories of years gone by can make us feel left-out, isolated and painfully lonely if we don’t have anyone to celebrate with.
But good news! Christmas is also a time where there are many opportunities to Get Together, ease loneliness and bring our communities closer.
So, for every day in the lead up to Christmas, we’ll be sharing ways you can connect with your community. As with everything we do at The Great Get Together, many are inspired by the work of Jo Cox.
So, let the festivities begin!
1. Take part in #MincePieMoments
Our campaign to connect communities with tasty pastry is back for its second year! For the first day of December why not deliver a mince pie to a neighbour, or someone you nearby who you think might be lonely. We can’t think of a better way to kick off Christmas. Find out how to get involved here.
2. Have a spare chair?
Imagine how lonely you would feel in the lead up to Christmas if you knew you’d be alone for Christmas Dinner? Brighten up someone’s Christmas inviting someone who might be lonely round for Christmas Dinner. Download our free guide for more tips.
3. Organise a Community Christmas meal
Community Christmas is an organisation that believes that no older person in the UK should be alone on Christmas Day unless they want to be. They’ll help you set something up in your community and help you promote it. Find out more here.
4. Host a Christmas Get Together
You’ve shared a mince pie with a neighbour, you’ve set an extra place at the dining table, so what’s next? Plan a Great Christmas Get Together! Just like the Summer events, it can be anything that works for you and your community. How about carol singing with others from your street (don’t forget the cocoa!), an indoor picnic, a brisk Winter walk or screening of one of your favourite Christmas films? Get tips and resources to help you spread the word here.
5. Find out about volunteering for Contact the Elderly
You can find enjoyment and fulfilment in helping to make a real difference to the lives of older people who are isolated from family and friends. Studies show that volunteering can improve both your mental and physical health, boost self-esteem and help you become more socially connected. Find out how you can help here.
6. Call an old friend
The sound of an old friend’s voice does wonders to stave off loneliness. Call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while, especially if you think they may be feeling lonely this Christmas.
7. Join in on the Ramblers Festival of Winter Walks or organise your own
This year’s festival runs from Friday 21 December to Sunday 6 January. Ramblers invite everyone to join us in enjoying the best of Britain’s wintry landscapes. Whatever your age or ability there’s a walk for you. Fun winter-themed walks for little ones, short walks for people new to walking, and longer walks for those that want more of a challenge. Find out more here.
8. Encourage a friend to join you in a #MincePieMoment!
Excuse us for mentioning it twice in our list, but it’s ours and it’s our favourite! Help us spread the message that just the small act of sharing a mince pie can make us feel more connected this Christmas. If you’re on social media, why not use our special social media graphics to let everyone know you’re taking part. Don’t forget to tag someone you want to share mince pies with.
9. Have a chat
Tackling the loneliness crisis might seem like an impossible task, but each of us can do our bit by simple starting a conversation with a neighbour or a familiar face in our community, whether it’s in the supermarket queue, at the bus stop or at work.
As Jo said we can all help by “Looking in on a neighbour, visiting an elderly relative or making that call or visit we’ve been promising to a friend we haven’t seen in a long time.”
10. Volunteer or donate to the Silver Line
The Silver Line run the only confidential, free helpline for older people across the UK that’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We also offer telephone and letter friendship schemes where we match volunteers with older people based on their interests; facilitated group calls; and help to connect people with local services in their area. You can’t image the difference these wonder people are making to people’s lives. Please help them keep doing their amazing work by donating or volunteering.
11. Get in touch with a young friend or relative
Research says 40% of people aged 16 to 24 were “often or very often” lonely – the highest proportion of any age group. Why not get in touch with a young person you know who might be feeling lonely this Christmas. Find out more here.
12. Volunteer your cooking skills to a Royal Voluntary Service Lunch Club
RVS volunteers run lunch clubs so that older people can come together to enjoy tasty food and company on a regular basis. Their goal is always the same; to provide equal helpings of food and good company – the two essential ingredients they believe should always be hand in hand. Get involved with them here.
Are you, or is someone you know struggling with loneliness? Take a look at some tips and info on steps you can take to feel more connected. Why not share it online too, someone you know might be struggling silently.
How much do you really know about loneliness? Jo Cox, the person who inspired The Great Get Together, always looked for ways she could take real, effective action to address the problems she saw in her community. Before she was killed, she was working to set up the Loneliness Commission, which now holds her name. She would have said that what matters most now are the big and small steps that people can take in response to the Commission’s work.
We all have a responsibility to continue Jo’s work in our own communities. Read more about the Commission and how you can help here.
The Cares Family is a group of local community networks of young professionals and older neighbours hanging out and helping one another in our rapidly changing cities. They do this because while our big cities are amazing – full of people from all over the world and hotbeds of innovation and change – they can also be anonymous, lonely and isolating. Find out more here.
Going Christmas shopping? Make sure you have a browse in your local charity shops for hidden gems at bargain prices! Across the country charity shops make more than £270m for good causes across the UK. Many charity shops fund small, local charities who do important work in your area. Find your nearest one here.
17. Reach out to a friend on social media who you haven’t spoken to in a while
Facebook and Instagram help us to stay connected with family and friends, but spending too much time on social media could actually make you feel more alone.You have the power to use it for good! Reach out to a friend today who might be feeling alone.
Independent Age are helping to build a society where older people can live the lives they aspire to. There are a number of ways you can get involved. Whatever your talents, you can use them to help improve the lives of older people. Independent Age will give you training and cover your expenses.
Just a few hours a week from you could make the future brighter for someone experiencing loneliness or social isolation.
It might feel like ages away right now, but time flies when you’re organising the biggest party of the year, trust us! Sign up now for our Great Get Together weekend in June.
One of the ways Age UK try to combat loneliness in later life is through our befriending services. They offer different types of opportunity, so you can choose whatever works for you.
22. Attend a Community Christmas
Too late to organise something? No need to worry! You can still do your bit to connect with your community by attending a Community Christmas event. Find your nearest one here.
23. Ask yourself: Could you go a week without seeing someone?
That’s the reality for half a million older people in the UK. Take a minute to watch this video from the Campaign to End Loneliness.
24. Give a neighbour or friend a Christmas card who might not otherwise get one
Easy as (mince) pie! Ring the doorbell and hand a Christmas card to your neighbour. Start a conversation and make a connection that will last all year round.