A blog by David Main, Chief Executive of Lynwood Village and BEN.
As Christmas begins its approach we can expect the annual focus on loneliness to begin. And quite right too, it’s a persistent problem and we shouldn’t be complacent. Age UK estimates that 400,000 people aged over 65 are worried that they will be lonely at Christmas, and two million feel worried that they won’t be able to get out and about as much because of the short, dark days and poor weather.
This year, UK department store John Lewis joins the various charities who campaign on this important issue to send a message to us all about loneliness. Its much-hyped annual Christmas advert, which last year featured Monty the penguin finally being given a longed-for companion, features a small girl with a telescope and lonely man who lives on the moon. The little girl sees the man through her telescope and writes him a letter, but try as she might she can’t get it to him. Then Christmas rolls around and she unwraps a brand new telescope. With the aid of (presumably magic) balloons she sends her old telescope up to the lonely man who sees the beautiful parcel arriving with an amazed smile, looks through his new telescope and waves at the little girl with a tear rolling down his face. There won’t be a dry eye in the house.
While no-one actually lives on the moon, it’s a brilliant metaphor. It’s easy to become isolated, especially if you are in your later years and live alone. It can be difficult for family and friends to find the time to visit or spend much time with you and days can go by when you see no-one. Add to this a degree of physical frailty and a lack of confidence and it’s easy to see how, in a world that moves very fast, you can feel like you’re living on the moon.
This Christmas is the first our residents will spend at Lynwood Village, our wonderful retirement village here in Sunninghill. We’re holding a Christmas Fair where we can all enjoy mince pies and mulled wine while buying Christmas gifts from the 20 or so stalls that will be here. Residents can also join trips to the theatre, pantomime and shops where we’ll take them there and back, so there’s no need to worry about transport. And on Christmas Day itself we will be having a delicious Christmas lunch with all the trimmings in Prescott’s, our fantastic restaurant, when we will be joined by residents’ families and friends.
Places like Lynwood Village are a good idea all year round, but it’s the festive season that brings the issue of loneliness and isolation sharply into focus. When I see groups of residents in the library playing Rummikub or gathered in the coffee shop for a chat, I wonder what they would have been doing last Christmas. How many of them would have been in need of magic balloons and telescopes?