Don’t be lonely in Leeds this Christmas, just give us a call

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Around 60 elderly people who live alone have been given an extra special gift this Christmas – a lifeline to a friend who can help them through tough times.

As in previous years Zest – Health for Life arranged for pensioners’ goody bags crammed full of winter treats like chocolates and Christmas puddings, plus fleecy blankets and gloves, to be handed out.

But this year, for the first time, the bags contained “emergency cards” listing the names and numbers of six volunteers happy to be called at any time over the holidays, including Christmas Day.

Maureen Lillywhite, senior community health development worker at Zest – who is one of the six volunteers, said “We are saying, when everything is closed down we are here if you need us.

“It might be icy and they have run out of milk or they’re poorly and need to contact the doctor, the heating has broken down or maybe they’re just feeling lonely and want to chat to someone.

“If they haven’t got a number to call, then who do they ring?

“Just having that card there with numbers on will probably help them feel a bit better – so they know someone is thinking about them.”

She added: “If everything is wonderful, none of us will get a phone call but these numbers could be a lifeline for some older person.”

Police Community Support Officers and members of Stainbeck United Reformed Church helped to identify Meanwood pensioners they knew would be alone this Christmas.

They also handed out the bags, the contents of which were provided by Mitie at Thorpe Park and The Library at Leeds Beckett University. Maureen said most services for older people, like access buses and lunch clubs, closed down for two weeks over Christmas, leaving them isolated. Our sister paper The Yorkshire Post launched its Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign in February after revealing how it affects 91,300 older people in the region.

Michael Tennant.

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