Give the gift of company this Christmas

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HALF A MILLION lonely older people face spending Christmas alone as people do not know how to offer help, a charity has said.

Friends of the Elderly said two out of three people want to do more to help the 500,000 older people who will spend Christmas Day alone, but don’t know how. It is urging people to do more to look out for elderly neighbours, as one support service, which matches people with events in their area, revealed that vast parts of Yorkshire are without vital community get-togethers that could prevent people spending Christmas Day alone.

Community Christmas provides support and guidance to those wishing to set up events on Christmas Day, be it traditional lunches, tea dances or parties. It also has a free listing services where people can find an event to attend or support. While more than 200 events have been listed across the country, swathes of the region are without events, founder Caroline Billington said.

There is currently just one event listed on the site for Leeds, at St Mary’s Parochial Hall.

“People in Yorkshire will be struggling to find somewhere to go,” she said. “And while there may be smaller events going on, if we don’t know about it, it’s unlikely that the people they are trying to cater for do too.”

Friends of the Elderly found 62 per cent felt they could do more to support older people at this time of year, but a third don’t have the time or don’t know how.

Steve Allen, chief executive at the charity, said simple things like wishing a neighbour Merry Christmas or having a brief chat could “make the world of difference to an older person” who has no family and friends around.

But Community Christmas, which began in 2011, has shown that making a bigger effort can have a lasting impact. While many charities, church groups and community centres have already planned their events, there’s still time for volunteers to plan new projects, especially in areas where no events are already listed, like Wakefield.

“There are a lot of organisations out there that offer Christmas lunches or parties throughout December, but not on Christmas Day, when people might be feeling at their most alone,” Ms Billington said. “We need so many more events.”

To find an event near you, or to register a new event, visit www.communitychristmas.org.uk