Although in the UK in 2014 it was found that “nearly half a million people aged over 75 will spend Christmas Day alone this year because they don’t want to be seen as a burden, their families have moved away or they don’t talk to their children anymore,” this does not have to be the case. The Community Christmas was set up in 2011 with the express goal of ensuring “no elderly person in the UK should be alone on Christmas Day unless they want to be.”
Over the few years since its inception it has grown with 74 events in 2013, 152 in 2014 and (thanks to a grant from the Big Lottery Fund) 300+ in 2015. This is an opportunity for everyone to get involved. As one volunteer said: “There is sometimes a blurring between guests and volunteers – anyone can be alone at Christmas and our event makes it better for all.” The organization has witnessed neighbors inviting each other in to watch TV together; groups going to the local pub to enjoy a traditional Christmas lunch together or people organizing a community event. Given that the organization found that 87% of older people are looking for a traditional Christmas day, it is vital the elderly are included.
So how about America? What are we doing for our seniors on this special day? In 2003 Be a Santa to a Senior was established, partnering with various communal and non-profit organizations to find seniors who, over the holiday season, might not be the recipient of Christmas gifts. Together with local businesses and stores, gifts are purchased distributed via trees and ornaments within various locations. Gift requests from seniors are written on a Be a Santa to a Senior bulb. Since its inception there have been: 60,000 volunteers distributing gifts; 1,200,000 gifts provided to seniors, 700,000 seniors who had their holiday brightened by the organization.