For most of us, Christmas is a happy time of year when we get together with family and friends. We share and make merry. We eat together, we share gifts and share stories about the past year.
For many of our elderly citizens, this simply does not happen.
Can you make a difference to a senior in your neighbourhood this coming festive season?
Research shows that the number of people aged 60+ in South Africa increased from 2.8 million to 4.1 million in the years 1996 to 2011. The percentage of those living in single member households increased from 16.3% to 26.7%. Due to our political history and current economic climate, a large portion of South Africa’s elderly population have children who have emigrated to Australia, New Zealand, America, Europe…. leaving them behind to celebrate the festive season alone as they don’t have the money to travel and visit. And to top it all, South Africa’s homes for the elderly are full of parents and elderly people who seldom receive visitors.
A Social work manager at the Pietermaritzburg and District Council for the Care of the Aged has some sage advice on how to overcome loneliness, especially on Christmas Day:
- The best way is to reach out to others
- Visit people in hospitals with the willingness to listen or read a Bible verse, or visit a children’s home with balloons or bubbles on the day
- Find out if a church in your area runs a special soup kitchen for the homeless on Christmas day
- If you are living in an old-age home, reach out to your neighbour who is also stuck in the home for the day. Turn Christmas Day into a pleasant day for the both of you.
(Media 24 ”Lonely elders see a darker side of the festive season” by Gabisile Ngcobo)
The same article quotes a LifeLine counsellor who talked about “watching” the Bold and the Beautiful over the phone with a lonely caller on Christmas Day.
We would like to urge you, YEI members, to think about sharing your Christmas dinner, donating a present, or even simply time. It can be as easy as knocking on the door of an older person living in your neighbourhood and asking if they have plans. Or phoning the Retirement Village or Old Age Home closest to you and asking how you can add to their Christmas celebrations.
YEI contacted the Flower Foundation, which is a non-profit organisation that caters for the needs of those over 55, who are seeking to retire to a safe and secure environment, with available care facilities for health care needs.
The Flower Foundation gave us a list of what they would truly appreciate over the Christmas season. To see if there is a Flower Foundation Home or Village near you, click on the Flower Foundation listing on the YEI website, and then click through to their website for their full list of homes.
For the Residents in Care they would appreciate:
- Children singing and dancing
- Pet therapy – take well-behaved dogs to visit the elderly
- Pamper sessions – focussing on nails and feet
- Something to eat – but communicate with the matron first about dietary requirements
If you were wondering what to do with your grandchildren in the build-up to Christmas, get them involved in planning and rehearsing a concert which you can take to some homes for the elderly.
The homes particularly in need of some interaction are:
- Witpoortjie Village in Witpoortjie on the West Rand
- Silver Stream Village in Randburg and
- Elim Park Village in Northcliff
Christmas is a time for sharing and being with people that we love. Spare a thought for those who do not have a loving family or friends – it needn’t cost anything beyond time and sharing and caring.