Don’t be left alone this Christmas

Loneliness is often felt more keenly at Christmas.
Loneliness is often felt more keenly at Christmas.

The Christmas adverts showing families getting together for a festive celebration can be quite different from the reality.

It is estimated that around 1,000 older people in Calderdale will experience loneliness this Christmas.

And it is often an issue hidden from their family, friends and society in general.

Rachel Swaby, project worker for Staying Well, a council funded service that receives about 50-60 referrals per month in the Calderdale area, said: “It’s a massive problem globally. It’s a human problem.

“We get a lot of referrals but it can be hard to identify them because how do you find people who aren’t finding others?

“Statistics don’t always show the real picture.

“The bulk of our referrals is over 50’s, perhaps because of the death of a partner, but it can be younger people.

“Younger people can be lonely in a different way. They can be surrounded by people all the time but not have a connection where they can rely on someone for support.”

A Christmas Day dinner in Elland a couple of years ago saw around 40 people attend.

In Calderdale around 12,000 aged over 65 live alone. It is estimated that 1 in 5 is mildly lonely and 1 in 10 are intensely lonely. And if trends continue, in another 15 years the number of people aged over 75 in Calderdale is going to reach almost 26,000.

“There can be a lot of pride about not wanting to admit you are lonely,” added Rachel.

“Plus there is more pressure at this time of year - all the adverts on TV show big, happy, smiling families but that’s not the reality fir a lot of people.

“Families are more fragmented these days and often older people can’t travel to see relatives.

“A lot of people are at risk and they can become lonely without realising it.

“You never know what curve ball life might throw at you.

“Perhaps if people retire, their family move away or their partner passes away.

“Their social circle can get chipped away bit by bit.

“Loneliness can affect your mental and physical health , which are exacerbated by feeling lonely.

“But studies have shown that if people can stay active and connected within a community they feel healthier.”

Rachel said services like Staying Well are there to help people who are feeling lonely.

“Give us a call and speak to us,” she said.

“If we don’t know we will know someone who does.”

To speak to someone at the Staying Well project, call 01422 392767.