Don’t let it be a lonely Christmas

1
Have your say

People in Milton Keynes are being urged to fight loneliness this Christmas.

Health leaders at NHS Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group have teamed up with Age UK Milton Keynes and Mind BLMK to signpost the support available locally and urge people to keep an eye out for elderly relatives and neighbours.

It is proved that loneliness and isolation can have a significant detrimental effect on a health and wellbeing, particularly for people over 85.

This age group is growing more rapidly in Milton Keynes than other parts of the country and Age UK Milton Keynes is seeking to support older people in need in a number of different ways.

“Our Community Home Visitors find that at a time of crisis many older people feel unable to cope alone; we can be there to offer support and advice,” said Jane Palmer, Age UK Milton Keynes Chief Executive.

“Our Befrienders provide something that can’t easily be quantified: they give their time. Our weekly Lunch Clubs enable people to catch up with old friends and make new ones. They can also find out about services and support we provide that helps them live independently and make more of later life.

Jane is urging people to call on 01908 550700 or view the Age UK for more information.

The Age UK Milton Keynes office will close at 1:00pm on December 24. It will be open from 9:00am to 1:00pm on December 28-30 and will return to normal hours on January 4 2016.

Alison Fisher, Chief Officer at Mind BLMK, said: “We at Mind BLMK recognise that the winter months often exacerbate sadness because of the weather and Christmas celebrations. We are pleased to be working with partners in Milton Keynes to raise awareness of loneliness and have a coordinated approach to supporting those who need our help in the festive period.”

Over Christmas and New Year, Mind BLMK will be open until December 23 and re open on January 4 2016 for counselling and wellbeing sessions.

Mind BLMK will also be holding a series of Wellbeing sessions in January, covering such areas as sleep, improving your mood through food, relaxation and mindfulness.

In addition, Mind BLMK has a range of information and leaflets on coping strategies and self-help booklets via Nation Mind - http://mind.org.uk/information-support/a-z-mental-health. For more local information call 01908 257830 or visit www.mind-blmk.org.uk/wellbeing-centres/milton-keynes-wellbeing

Meanwhile Dr Nicola Smith, Chair of NHS Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Older people are especially vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation. It can have a serious impact on health, but there are ways of overcoming loneliness thanks to the excellent support provided by local organisations like Age UK and Mind BLMK.”

These are the three steps suggested by experts to combat loneliness:

1. Plan the days when you will be alone, doing something/going somewhere you have been meaning to do/go. It can help you feel less lonely if you plan the week ahead and put things in your diary to look forward to each day, such as a walk in the park, going to a local coffee shop, library, sports centre, cinema or museum. Independent Age has published a guide to help you find free groups and classes in your area. You can order a free print copy by calling 0800 319 6789, or email advice@independentage.org

2. See if there is a project looking for Christmas volunteers. Many charities and organisations need help at Christmas. If you have spare time, you could spend a few hours working as a volunteer.

3. Stay active. Go out for a walk and take some exercise. There is evidence that as little as 20 minutes of gentle walking every day can help improve your mood, and getting out and socialising is a great way to keep yourself feeling positive.

Dr Smith said: “Everyone can play their part this Christmas in fighting loneliness by popping in to see an elderly relative, friend or neighbour to see how they are and check they have everything they need.

“Perhaps you could do a bit of shopping for them if they are stuck indoors or invite them round for a cup of tea and a chat.

“ Other ways in which you can help are by making sure they have appropriate medicine in their medicine cabinet and that they are aware of the NHS 111 telephone urgent care service along with their pharmacist’s and GP’s opening times.”