'1/3 of older people in Northern Ireland tell us that they feel lonely, but as we all know, statistics only tell one part of the story,' says Linda Robinson, Age NI Chief Executive.
'It's not until you hear directly from older people about severity of the isolation and loneliness that they are feeling that it really hits home. At this time of year in particular, feelings of loneliness can be even more pronounced.'
Age NI's No one should have no one at Christmas campaign is highlighting the loneliness that thousands of older people are facing at this time of the year. People like Terry and Eddie who attend an Age NI day centre in Belfast. They were referred to the centre through Eimear, a Coordinator with Age NI’s First Connect service which provides one-to-one support for older people who are going through difficult times.
When Doreen, Terry’s wife of 56 years passed away, he found himself in a very lonely place:
'I love company and conversation. I come to the Men’s Club at the day centre one day a week and I look forward to it. There’s only so much TV you can watch. When you’re home alone, without anyone calling, day in, day out, it’s hard to see the good in anything. I come here and I have fun – it’s just one day, but it’s the best day in the week for me.' - Terry (photo right)
Eddie (photo at top) was married to Kathleen for 40 years. She sadly passed away, having lived with dementia for some time. Eddie misses her greatly, and in recent years, has found that health problems have increased his loneliness and isolation:
'I have care workers who support me at home every day because I can’t move around easily. It used to be that they were the only faces I would see in the week. I’ve lost a lot of sight in one of my eyes, and I’m having injections in the other to prevent it getting worse but that has been hard to deal with.
'I had to give up my car which means that I can’t do simple things like go to the shops on my own. I have to rely on people for so many things. It’s very lonely, I don’t mind telling people. If it wasn't for Eimear encouraging me to come to the Men’s Club, and a lunch club that I go to during the week, I wouldn’t get out. I just wouldn’t see people. Like Terry, I love to meet and talk to people, and the company of others is what it’s all about.'
Linda continues, 'Loneliness is a very personal battle and can be triggered by so many of life’s challenges. Most of us can remember a time when someone was there to help us – a family member, a friend, a neighbour. It’s amazing the difference that a kind word or a comforting hug can make when we’re feeling sad and alone. We can all help older people in our lives who are feeling lonely.'
Stephen Patton, from Belfast City Airport (supporters of the No one should have no one at Christmas campaign) adds, 'We are delighted to support Age NI’s campaign again this Christmas. When many of us are surrounded by our friends and family at Christmas, it’s ever more important that we take time to do something for older people in our lives who are feeling lonely and have no one to offer a helping hand.’
To support Age NI, please make a donation and help the charity to provide companionship, advice and support for older people facing Christmas alone.