How to connect with elderly people this Christmas

The Christmas holidays are traditionally the time of year when lots of us spend time with our family and catch up with friends. But in 2021, many older people across the UK are still feeling nervous about visiting their loved ones for Christmas, while others don’t have family nearby that they can spend time with.  

The coronavirus pandemic has also brought isolation for some older people who would normally be more sociable. This has added an extra consideration for them at Christmas, as normally they would want to see their families, but may not be able to due to being nervous about the consequences for their health.

If you know an elderly person who has dealt with these issues over the last few years, then you might be wondering how you can make this Christmas a good one for them. Here, Coast Road Furniture will take you through some ideas to help you connect with the elderly people in your life.

Strike up a conversation

It might sound simple, but the first thing you can do to make older people feel less alone, is to begin chatting with them. If you pass an elderly neighbour on the street, or see them in the driveway or garden, check in with them and ask how they are.

If you think that they might have hearing problems, or memory issues, you can make things easier for them by speaking clearly and leaving pauses between your phrases or sentences for them to digest the information. Be careful not to shout, however.

Once you begin chatting, you’ll likely find some interests that you have in common, whether that be your local community, or a hobby like cooking or gardening. This can be done outside to alleviate any coronavirus concerns.

Cook with them or share a meal

When people become elderly, it can be difficult to cook for themselves, as it requires coordination, standing up for a long time, and carrying lots of groceries home. You can make a real difference by either taking round a plate of home-cooked food, or inviting an elderly neighbour to come over for dinner. You can also offer older neighbours or relatives meals that they can freeze to heat up in the microwave later. If you’re inviting an older person over for a meal, remember that they might need a more comfortable chair to sit on, especially if they have mobility.

Not only is this very practically helpful for older people, but it’s a great way to spend time with them and build social connections. If you know an older person who won’t have anyone to spend Christmas with, inviting them to your dinner or taking them some food can go a long way. If you are inviting your elderly loved ones for Christmas dinner, sending them home with some leftovers portioned out for heating up later is extra helpful.

There is also a whole initiative called the Casserole Club that is set up around this idea. You can become a cook, and donate some extra meal portions to elderly people in need, or suggest someone you know as a diner. Delivering or offering food is an excellent way to help someone out from a distance, and has been very useful for many during the pandemic.

Help out with household tasks

One of the difficult aspects of becoming older, is that some common household chores can feel more challenging. For instance, buying groceries and carrying them all back home, rearranging furniture, or cleaning in areas that are tricky to reach. Offering a helping hand can really make these people feel less alone, and more cared for.

Ask the older people in your life if there are any tasks that they are struggling with, and see if you can help out with them. You might find that other family members, friends or neighbours are also happy to lend a hand, and you can all make someone feel looked after. This can be particularly helpful around Christmas time, when some older people will be missing their families, or looking back on a year of having to remain more isolated. Delivering their groceries, or sourcing things online for them, can help older people feel cared for even when they need to remain isolated.

Give some time to charity

As well as connecting with the older people in your own family and community, you can make an effort to connect with elderly people across the UK. Charities across the UK have created schemes where people can link up with elderly residents in their communities, and provide some friendly interaction.

The charity Independent Age have a scheme that matches volunteers with elderly people who they can drop in on for a chat, which can build social connections and brighten their day. You can read about their scheme here. Age UK also have lots of volunteering opportunities on this page of their website. You can offer to run a fitness group, befriend an older person, or drive someone to an activity that would be otherwise tricky for them to attend. Christmas Day phone calls, and outdoor trips such as markets, can allow you to volunteer more safely throughout the pandemic. Check what adaptations charities have made throughout this time, and see what support you can offer.

Alison Hughes from Coast Road Furniture said:

“This time of year can be challenging for many elderly people, as some have family that lives too far away to visit, or have mobility issues that make it challenging to visit others. The coronavirus pandemic has also made socialising more difficult, as lots of older people have had to remain in their homes a lot.

“As well as volunteering and looking out for the elderly people in your local area, you can make accommodations for them when they visit you by ensuring that you have comfortable, accessible furniture available.

“If you know that a neighbour or loved one has mobility issues, or back problems, having chairs with backs and comfortable seating can go a long way. There are also plenty of adjustable chairs which can allow people more control over their seating position, giving them more independence. You could also consider setting the table for your Christmas dinner in an area where they won’t have to climb stairs, or navigate icy driveways.

“All these small considerations can make a big difference, and allow you to connect with the elderly people in your life more safely and easily.”