MHA, one of the largest charities in Britain, providing services to older people for more than 70 years, launched a new awareness campaign on 29 November: ‘Good Deed-cember’. So far over 125 good deeds have been officially registered with MHA (via “Good Deed-Cember” cards, sent in to the charity) and through social media MHA has reached over 880K people using the hashtag #GoodDeedcember, with over 170K video views.
The campaign, which was launched by John Middleton and Charlotte Bellamy on 20 November in Leeds and also at Derby County Community Trust in Derby, highlights isolation and loneliness amongst older people by calling on the public to remember older neighbours, friends and relatives by delivering a good deed this December, or by donating money to MHA’s Live At Home schemes.
Loneliness and isolation has reached epidemic levels across the country. There are over 1.8 million older people living alone, across all demographics and all parts of the country. 3 million people over the age of 60 say they feel lonely and can often go for over a month without having a meaningful conversation with a friend, family member or neighbour.
Nationally, MHA runs 57 community-based Live At Home schemes, all of which provide company and support for older people through a number of initiatives, including group lunches, befriending schemes, days out, keep fit classes and much more. Each scheme provides slightly different services shaped by their members, but all have the shared goal of eliminating isolation and loneliness amongst older people and are supported by volunteers.
“We are extremely happy with the success of our Good Deed-Cember campaign so far. Hundreds of people up and down the country have been carrying out good deeds for older neighbours, friends and family, helping to raise their spirits at a time when feelings of loneliness and isolation are at their greatest”, comments Jonathan Mace, Head of Live at Home at MHA.
“However, there is still a long way to go as these issues will only get worse as we continue to live longer. That is why we need to raise awareness of just how many people are living alone this Christmas and throughout the year; it could be your next door neighbour. By carrying out even the smallest good deed, you can make a huge difference to someone’s life.”
“At MHA we want to tackle these issues by providing schemes and projects which enable older people living alone to be actively involved in their communities, but we can’t do it alone and need the public’s help to raise funds.”
Some of the 125 deeds sent in by members of the public to MHA, or shared using #GoodDeedcember include:
‘Bringing Cakes and mince pies to a neighbour who has recently lost his wife’
‘Spending a few hours a week with a neighbour who is poorly’
‘Giving out free vegetables from the allotment to people, some of whom have difficulty getting out shopping’
‘Taking home made shortbread to a family friend who now finds it difficult baking’
‘A Christmas tea with carol singing for the elderly people in my village, most of who live alone’
Funds raised are directly going to people living alone, but who are part of MHAs hugely successful Live At Home scheme.
A donation of just £5 could fund an at home festive visit from a MHA volunteer. £10 could ensure an older person goes on a Christmas shopping trip. £25 would help support a community Christmas lunch. Donations can be given via www.gooddeedcember.org.uk, by calling 0800 085 6962 or by texting DEED16 to 70070 (for a £5 donation).
The following stories illustrate just how important this campaign is:
Doris is 101 and has lived in Derby her whole life. She worked until she was 74 in various jobs; cleaning offices, pubs, making corsets and working in a bottling plant. She has a daughter but has not seen her for years after they fell out. She has been married twice, and her second husband passed away 11 years ago, who she misses dearly. She lives at home by herself and cooks for herself, keeping busy doing puzzle books and knitting. She says “Last Christmas, I was alone but a friend popped in and that was very nice. I can’t manage to go away this year. I have no company at Christmas, I’m all alone”. However, through MHA’s Live at Home scheme, she says she “has made lots of new friends who are wonderful and who she will spend Christmas with this year”.
Agostina (Tina) Randall is a member of the Derby East scheme. She came to the UK from Italy in 1946 with her husband who was serving as a solider. The couple settled in the UK and started a family. Since then, Tina’s husband has sadly passed away and her children have moved away. Having lived in the same area since the 1950’s, and with no relatives nearby, Tina started to feel increasingly lonely. One day, she walked past her local Live at Home offices and enquired about coming along to one of the lunch clubs. She says: “People didn’t tell me about Live at Home because they didn’t think I would want to be with other old people, but we have so much in common! Everyone is fantastic; we share everything together; the good and the bad”