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  • Writer's pictureCharlotte Wallwork

It'll be lonely this Christmas...let's change that

Updated: Dec 23, 2020

For most of us, the festive season is full of joy, festivities, seeing friends and family and eating too many mince pies.

It’s so easy to forget how many people live alone and won’t be able to spend Christmas with loved ones this year or any other year. This is particularly noticeable this year, even in countries with minimal Covid restrictions, there are still barriers in place preventing normal festivities taking place. On top of this, there are a lot of people experiencing grief this year, on top of those who’ve already suffered a loss before Covid19 came along.

For those of us who are lucky enough to be surrounded by friends and family, it's all too easy to forget that some people have had relatives pass away or have lost touch with those they were once close with.

As featured on the UK’s BBC, Terence, an elderly man reached out to the community after explaining that since the death of his mother, he’d spent the last twenty Christmases alone and was losing hope.

Friends for Good describes itself as a volunteer driven not-for-profit and Australian loneliness pioneer joining the fight against loneliness.

They state that loneliness is the hidden suffering of the modern age. Global media coverage has helped raise awareness of loneliness and increased government funding and charity support. But is it enough? Are we all doing enough to help fight this silent suffering? What happens to those people who don't reach out?

Covid19 has increased loneliness as people have spent more time indoors and away from friends and family. Even not being able to go out into the community grocery shopping for example, people are communicating and engaging less with others and this can be damaging for mental health no matter your age.

It’s important that we step up and help fight the loneliness that engulfs those around us. Half the world seems to be hyper-connected through technology in ways that fifty years ago we couldn’t have even imagined; but we’ve left others behind.

The elderly has taken the brunt of this technological advancement. They’re unfamiliar with this new technology and unable to learn it’s uses as quickly as younger generations; leaving them isolated and unable to action their everyday tasks.

There are some fantastic services out there doing wonders to re-educate the elderly on how to use technology to shop, use online services safely, use mobile and tablet devices and get comfortable with online banking. The task is to spread knowledge of these services within communities and encourage both young and old to increase the use of technology among the elderly to combat loneliness.

Future generations of elderly people will have the knowledge of using smartphones and the high-tech that surrounds us now, but what we’re experiencing at the moment is a lost generation of people who grew up without the internet and are now so far behind with how the modern world works, there’s really no chance of catching up. All we can do is try to bridge the gap, make the effort, pick up the phone, ring the doorbell, encourage them to learn and meet them half-way by taking part in activities they enjoy too. While you may never get your nan to understand augmented reality, you may be able to teach her how to use Skype…baby steps!

Social Anxiety

Social anxiety describes overwhelming feelings of fear and nervousness around social engagement. Even if the desire to communicate and take part is there, an invisible barrier prevents the person from being able to engage. This can cause feelings of isolation and loneliness and it impacts people of all ages. Covid19 has increased people’s levels of anxiety and this has exacerbated social anxiety in some and been newly created for others who’d not experienced it before.

The key to overcoming social anxiety is to take small steps and accept small wins. We’ve spent a lot of time this year out of routine, away from friends and family, unable to engage and participate in things we’d normally do so it’s OK for us to come out of this pandemic not feeling quite ourselves. While some of us might bounce back immediately, others may take a little time to re-engage with society and commitments that they used to partake in without thinking.

There are other reasons why people may be lonely during the festive period:

  • Mental and physical disabilities that prevent people taking part in holiday activities

  • Having a different religion or ethnic background can be isolating for some during the festive season

  • Having moved to a new neighbourhood or country

  • Single parents and carers can feel lonely at this time too.

Single parents or parents who share their children with another parent throughout the holidays can experience loneliness. It’s important to make other plans if it’s not your turn to host this year, be around other people, see friends, make the most of the free time where you can. If you’re a single parent and you find the lack of adult company difficult during the festive season, consider joining a single parents’ network and collaborating with another single parent over the holidays to enjoy some adult company and share the childcare.

Any one of us can get lonely, we’ll all feel it at some point in our lives and this could be for many reasons. In some ways this is a good thing; if we’ve experienced something such as loneliness, we can empathise with others and try and help them.

Christmas is a time for joy, do not feel guilty for your life if it’s full of loved ones, but try to sit back for a minute and think about what you can do to invite someone into your life that perhaps isn’t so lucky.

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