It’s more important than ever we make sure older people are not forgotten this Christmas
For many older people, being stuck on their own at home for long periods of time has been heard to bear, writes Caroline Abrahams. | PA Images
Many older people have been heeding the warnings to take extra care and will stay hunkered down alone this Christmas. We must not forget to keep in touch and let them know we care.
Christmas is always a bittersweet time for many older people, but what about this ‘Covid Christmas’? To what extent will the government’s loosening of restrictions over the immediate five day festive period really help?
The government’s recent announcement about allowing some social mixing at Christmas has been warmly welcomed as offering many families a ray of light at a pretty bleak time.
However, more and more questions are being raised with us at Age UK about how safe it will really be for families to come together with their older relatives, as this pausing of the restrictions now allows. As people mull over the risk the virus still very definitely poses, especially to any older person, some are saying they will probably choose not to try what they normally would – have Grandma and Grandpa over for the day or to stay - for fear of inadvertently putting them at risk.
It’s horribly cruel that one of the best and only ways we have of controlling Covid-19 is to isolate ourselves from other people
The problem is we know now it’s awfully easy to pass the virus on in poorly ventilated spaces, with people clustered together for considerable periods of time. That sounds rather like many family Christmases, doesn’t it? The difficulty is compounded by the fact that it is perfectly possible to be infectious without having any symptoms. In addition, lateral flow testing isn’t available to the general public, so we can’t check if everyone is ok before deciding whether to come together on a given day or not.
Many older people have told us that ever since the pandemic began, they have been behaving cautiously and leaving home only rarely, if at all. Those with serious health conditions, in particular, appear to have been heeding the warnings to ‘take extra care’ – a policy which so far has paid off in that it has helped to keep them safe.
It’s too early to know how older people with this mindset will react to the possibility of meeting family and friends for Christmas, but it’s likely that many will decide it best to stay hunkered down for now, postponing any get-togethers until a vaccine has been rolled out in the early part of 2021.
It’s horribly cruel that one of the best and only ways we have of controlling Covid-19 is to isolate ourselves from other people, as many older people have already chosen to do. Yet we are social animals and, for many older people, being stuck on their own at home for long periods of time has been heard to bear.
Many have told us of their acute loneliness, and sometimes their anxiety and depression too. This is a tough time for all of us, but if you have no one with whom to share your worries, or a joke, it must be more challenging still.
No doubt some older people and their families will decide to come together for a spell over Christmas, and hopefully they will have a thoroughly good, appropriately socially distanced time. Many other older people though will be on their own, even greater numbers than usual.
It’s more important than ever that we all do our bit to keep in friendly touch and tell the older people in our lives that they are not forgotten, and that we care.
If ever there was a year to give Auntie Flo a ring, or pop a Christmas card through an older neighbour’s door with an offer of help if it’s needed, it’s this one. At Age UK we will playing our part too, focusing especially on those who have no one to turn to at all.
Caroline Abrahams is the Charity Director for Age UK, the leading charity for older people. Find out more and how to donate, at www.ageuk.org.uk/ and www.ageuk.org.uk/christmas-appeal
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