CHRISTMAS should be filled with joy and happiness and is for spending time surrounded by the ones you love.
But for many older people it can be a painfully lonely time without so much as a friendly face to look upon, let along a gift to unwrap.
It gives them someone to talk to and gives you a warm feeling inside knowing that you’re helping someoneArthur Lee
Today The News launches our Christmas campaign Don’t Let Them Be Lonely to bring light to the lives of hundreds of isolated elderly people across our communities.
There are three ways you can play your part: Donate gifts which elderly people will receive at a special Christmas dinner; give up an hour of your time a week to spend with an older member of the community; or offer to do an odd job for an elderly person in the Portsmouth area.
According to Age UK, more than two million people in England over the age of 75 live alone, and more than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member.
It can have a huge impact on mental and physical health.
That is why The News has joined forces with the Salvation Army, Age UK and Hampshire Good Neighbours to rally our readers’ support at the time of year when older people need it most.
Through the Living Well project Age UK helps the most vulnerable and isolated elderly people.
We want to make sure they open at least one gift at the Christmas dinner being put on for them by Age UK in Portsmouth.
Without the Salvation Army’s befriending service, many older people would go weeks without having a conversation with a friendly adult.
But the charity is desperate for volunteers to sign up and spend an hour or two a week with an older member of the community struggling on their own.
Outside of Portsmouth, the Good Neighbours Support Service needs volunteers to help older people with everything from changing a light bulb to taking them shopping.
They are elderly people who simply have no one else they can rely on for help and would be stranded without the support of Good Neighbour volunteers such as 79-year-old Arthur Lee.
Arthur, from Leigh Park, has been volunteering for Havant and Leigh Park Good Neighbours for four years.
He said: ‘I took it up to give me something to do once I retired.
‘And now it takes up all of my time – because I love doing it.
‘You get to meet lots of different people and, most importantly, help them.
‘I take them to doctors and hospital appointments. It works both ways. It gives them someone to talk to and gives you a warm feeling inside knowing that you’re helping someone.’
We need our readers to support the service by signing up to give just a couple of hours a week in the new year to someone who needs to see a friendly face.
Last year, Good Neighbours groups across Havant, Fareham, Gosport and East Hampshire carried out 45,000 tasks for people in need.
Most of the roles involve no training, but most require a driving licence and a DBS check as volunteers are often working with vulnerable adults.
Mark Waldron, editor of The News, said: ‘Over the years our Christmas campaigns have helped make a difference to the lives of so many people in our communities. This time we’re asking for you to help those to whom we owe the biggest debt. Please support us in making Christmas and the New Year a brighter one for them.’
IN 1999, a stroke left great-grandmother Anne Lucie unable to walk or use her arm.
After months in hospital she regained some mobility but has never been able to move her arm.
It meant Mrs Lucie, a widower from Leigh Park, was a virtual prisoner in her own home; unable even to get to the bus stop on her own.
Fortunately for her, she was referred to the Havant and Leigh Park Good Neighbour Support Service.
The volunteers who drive Mrs Lucie to clubs and hospital and doctors appointments have provided her with a lifeline in what would otherwise have been a very lonely existence.
Mrs Lucie, 73, said: ‘After I had my stroke I could not go anywhere on my own.
‘But someone kindly gave me the details for Good Neighbours.
‘Their help meant I could start going back to the clubs I went to before I had the stroke.
‘The driver took me there and brought me back again.
‘It gave me my freedom back.’
Although Mrs Lucie has a large family they work and it is not possible for them to take her to all her appointments.
Arthur Lee, 79, has been Mrs Lucie’s volunteer driver for the past five years.
He picks her up three times a week, and more if she needs it.
She said: ‘Arthur is very good. If I need to go to the chiropractor, the hospital or doctors he will take me there too.
‘I admire the volunteers, I really do. I was a carer for 30 years and now I have to have carers.
‘They are wonderful. I don’t know what I would do without them.
‘I would stay in 24/7 because all my sons are working and they can’t just down tools.
‘As well as being very helpful the Good Neighbours are all very nice people as well.’
HOW YOU CAN HELP
There are three parts to The News’ Christmas campaign Don’t Let Them Be Lonely.
We are working with Age UK, the Salvation Army and the Good Neighbours Support Service.
1 The Good Neighbours Support Service covers Fareham, Gosport, Havant, Waterlooville and East Hampshire.
Volunteers are there when there is no-one else people can call upon to help. They carry out simple tasks such as shopping or dropping clients to hospital appointments.
Volunteers will be undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check to make sure everyone who applies is suitable for the role and they need to have a car.
To sign up call (023) 9289 9671 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
2 Age UK runs the Living Well project in the Bradbury Centre, Kingston Road, Portsmouth.
It is for isolated people aged over 50 with serious health conditions. They are among the most vulnerable in society and Age UK works with them to take small steps towards gaining enough confidence to get back into society.
On December 23 Age UK is holding a free Christmas dinner for those who are part of Living Well, at the Bradbury Centre.
For many of those who attend it will be the only Christmas dinner they will have.
We would like your help in ensuring each of the 30 people attending have a special gift to unwrap on the day.
It can be anything from a book, to a hat and scarf set, to toiletries. Presents are needed for men and women.
Any extra presents will be given to some of the hundreds of other older people Age UK helps across the area.
Please drop off new, wrapped gifts with a tag specify whether it should go to a man or woman and brief description of the present to: Age UK, Bradbury Centre, Kingston Road, Portsmouth; The News, 1000 Lakeside, North Harbour; The News, West Street, Fareham; or The Hayling Islander, Elm Grove, Hayling.
3 The Salvation Army’s befriending service in Portsmouth, also called Good Neighbours, needs volunteers to spend an hour or two a week with lonely elderly people who need someone to talk to, who may otherwise not have anyone to chat to for months.
To sign up call (023) 9229 3793.