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No need to be Sue Lawley this Christmas

No apologies for the homage to The Police in the title (name that tune), it was either that or shoe-horning an Elvis classic into the title of this piece….. but keep reading as there are things to combat loneliness this Christmas

Norfolk County Council recently launched In Good Company (#NoLonelyDay), and its message is loud and clear: the run up to Christmas is a particularly tough time for people who are lonely.  Norfolk’s Public Health team estimates that there are 35,000 lonely people in Norfolk over 65 years of age, and the county campaign will run over the next 12 months with the help of more than 20 voluntary and statutory organisations and service providers in Norfolk, including Age UK Norwich.

Befriending service

In addition to providing information and advice to older people Age UK Norwich also provides a vital befriending service.  Community Outreach Manager, Bob Russell, explains: ‘The home befriending service is probably one of our biggest services. We have about 80 volunteers who visit over 100 people around the city. The volunteers promise to do an hour a week, every week, and that gives people something to look forward to.’ The long established service offers much-needed friendship, conversation and activities.  Bob says: ‘If someone is very frail and can’t leave the house then the befriending service is absolutely ideal.’

Age UK Norwich is also on hand with a team of volunteers called City Friends (formerly Cold Weather Friends) to call on older people if they are stuck without help due to extreme weather (icy conditions or deep snow).

Christmas shopping

For those who are able to leave the house, Age UK Norwich runs a timely Shopping Service in the run up to Christmas. The service runs on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly rota, and works with a local taxi company that collects people and takes them to Tesco’s, for example, where they’ll be met by two volunteers.  Or, for Christmas shopping online (or to stay in touch with families), Age UK Norwich offers volunteer-run sessions to help older people to get into computers.

Other activities encourage people to keep active, such as Walk in the Park (yes, even during the cold, wintry weather); Still on the Ball Football Reminiscence, which runs monthly at Carrow Road; and Inter-generational Walking Football at the Open Academy. Plus Age UK Norwich runs the Marion Road Centre for older people with dementia and their carers.

All in all there are countless activities available to help combat loneliness: including luncheon clubs, garden clubs (such as Mile Cross Library Intergenerational Gardening Project involving Catton Grove Primary School), craft clubs and social clubs.

Bob suggests five places in Norwich which help older people combat loneliness:

  • Heartsease Community Project – St Francis Church is the base for this ecumenical project that runs a luncheon club, coffee bar and ‘listening ear’ service. Visit www.stfrancisheartsease.co.uk
  • Society Alive – a community group based in Bowthorpe. Visit www.societyalive.org
  • The Phoenix Centre, Mile Cross – centre manager Peter Lemmon runs a range of clubs, including a community café for pensioners
  • Lakenham Friendship and Luncheon Club
  • Pilling Park Community Centre – serving the Thorpe Hamlet area

Let us know your thoughts on Christmas and combatting loneliness via our forum today.