For many people Christmas is a time of gifts and Christmas banquets with family and friends. Some people have small intimate gatherings with their immediate family, some do loud festive feasts with their entire extended family.
But for others, Christmas can be lonely, isolating and depressing.
Last year, German supermarket chain Edeka featured a Christmas ad (below) about a lonely elderly father desperate to spend the holidays with his family.
He calls his kids up year after year, having no one available to visit him. He eats his Christmas dinner alone.
Though the ad has a happy ending, the message in it chilling and moving – that it is important to spend time with elderly loved one before it’s too late.
Sadly, this is still an unhappy reality for some. There are still many elderly people out there who will be spending Christmas alone.
There are many reasons why elderly people may be alone at Christmas, they may have no living loved ones left, they may be confided due to poor health or limited mobility, or their family who live too far away to visit.
Having no family or friends to spend time with, especially at a time when so many others are, can be devastating.
And this isn’t just confined to Christmas or special occasions – loneliness for the elderly can happen year round.
Experts estimate that about one-third of Australians are lonely at one time in their lives. And that loneliness is most common amongst the elderly, men, single parents and those living alone.
The elderly in particular are at risk for being socially isolated as many have lost a spouse and are living alone. And as people get older their social circles often get smaller as children and grandchildren move away and friends and family members pass away.
Loneliness and social isolation can lead to other issues, including depression and anxiety. Research also suggests that the lack of social relationships is as strong a risk factor for mortality as are smoking, obesity or lack of physical activity.
On this day we hope you have a very Merry Christmas. But please remember your elderly loved ones. There are still a few hours left for Christmas – get in the car or pick up the phone and let them know you are thinking of them.
And for those who don’t have an elderly loved one in need, why not volunteer to spend time with an elderly person at home or in a facility? There are people who have no one in the world and would truly appreciate the kindness of a stranger.