National charity launches ‘Community Christmas’ online directory for venues open over Christmas

Older persons’ charity Re-engage has launched a free online directory for Christmas, inviting hospitality venues to list their opening hours and events during the festive period for older people likely to spend the season alone.

Community Christmas, the 2020 Christmas campaign from Re-engage, aims to ensure that no older person is alone on Christmas Day. The charity aims to actively match over-75s to events in their area on Christmas Day itself to ensure that more older people are able to enjoy the festive season.

The directory will list events taking place across the UK that are open to older, vulnerable people in the community. No two events are the same, varying from community Christmas lunches to formal sit-down dinners in care homes and restaurants, to mince pies and carol singing. Any event which creates the all important connections that hold communities together can be a Community Christmas event.

In 2019, more than 250,000 people aged 75 and over reported that they were not looking forward to Christmas because for them it’s ‘just another day’. With the ongoing health crisis and lockdown restrictions, this number is likely to increase, as many more are left unable to travel to see their families this winter.

John, 81 from Nottingham, labelled the season “months of misery”.

He said “It usually takes me until Easter to recover from Christmas. I never see a soul. I won’t pretend it’s not difficult, not having someone there to celebrate with. I have no children and a sister who lives far away. We see each other less and less. My birthday’s in January too, so it’s just months of misery.”

Community Christmas has helped facilitate numerous festive events from venues around the UK, including pubs, restaurant franchises and hotels. Events can range from a simple mince pie and refreshments, to a traditional Turkey dinner with all the trimmings, enjoyed in the company of others.

Last year, Polly Summerson, 27, held her first Community Christmas event in her Birmingham laundrette, after realising many of her older customers were anticipating spending Christmas Day alone.

She said: “I love Christmas, it’s such a special time for my family and I hated the idea of people alone with no place to go. So I told my mum that instead of our family meal in the dining room, we were going to hold a Christmas lunch right here in the laundrette!

My mum and sister got involved and we loved putting it on. Just as we would in our house, we all shared a traditional Christmas lunch with all the trimmings and settled in to watch the Queen’s speech in the afternoon. It made us so happy to see our guests having such a good time and my family really enjoyed it too.”

Meryl Davies, CEO of Re-engage said: “Winter can be physically challenging for older people and with the added pressures of Christmas and festive cheer, this can add an emotional toil. And we know that this Christmas is going to be particularly hard. Many of our older guests are bereaved and have found that their support networks have diminished as they’ve aged. Throughout the year, our aim is that all older people should have opportunities for friendship and companionship and we believe Christmastime is no exception.”

Re-engage has been supporting over-75s for over 50 years. Most recently, the charity launched a telephone befriending service, to ensure older people were not left further isolated by the Coronavirus crisis and remain connected with the outside world.

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