Christmas really is the season of goodwill, with a new study revealing the extent of the British public’s generosity and volunteering intention.
Research (1) by voluntary service charity, Royal Voluntary Service, finds nine million (one in five) adults in Great Britain intend to volunteer to help others this festive season with 38% of those intending to volunteer on Christmas Day itself. Collectively, this will result in 50 million hours being donated to good causes.
The findings identify a number of causes people would like to support over the festive period. Helping older people was the most popular, with 59% (2) saying they plan to or are considering donating their time to support older people over the festive period. Other charitable causes people were keen to gift their time to included supporting children and young people (54%), helping the homeless (53%) working on mental health projects (49%) and aiding refugees and asylum seekers (32%).
The goodwill and desire to support older people over Christmas is much needed – last year, research by the charity identified that almost 280,000 (3) older people were spending Christmas Day alone.
But help is at hand this year. Nearly one in 10 (9%) are inviting their older neighbours to join their Christmas celebrations. Others want to help but simply don’t know how – a fifth (21%) of the public said they would like to help an older neighbour who is lonely, but are unsure how to go about it.
Catherine Johnstone CBE, chief executive of Royal Voluntary Service said: “It is heart-warming to hear that so many people are planning to gift their time to supporting others in their community. The festive period can be a very difficult time for many people, particularly those in later life, who for whatever reason find themselves alone this Christmas. We believe more can be done in the community to help combat loneliness and isolation amongst older people, not just at Christmas, but all year round.”
Royal Voluntary Service Ambassador, Phillip Schofield said: “For most of us, the festive season is a time of celebration and a chance to spend time and catch up with friends and family. It’s hard to imagine that for so many older people, Christmas is actually the loneliest time of the year. We urge everyone to think about their older neighbours and the small acts they can do to bring some Christmas cheer. Just popping in to see someone for a mince pie or helping them get out for a festive event or to do a spot of Christmas shopping can make all the difference.”
69 year old, Jan Cox will be gifting her time on Christmas Day to help out at a lunch for older people at Royal Voluntary Service’s centre in Banbury. Jan says: “This will be the third year I have volunteered to help with the lunch on Christmas Day. I really enjoy it and feel very happy there – it’s a proper old-fashioned Christmas. Around 40 people came last year and we are expecting similar numbers this Christmas. Many of these older people would be on their own on Christmas Day if it wasn’t for the centre. As well as serving a delicious lunch, we also sing a lot of traditional Christmas songs, hand out presents and do a raffle. My role will be to help get everything set up, but I will also enjoy having chats with all the diners and will be spending most of the day there. Volunteering on Christmas Day is something I really love doing and it’s fantastic to see the happy faces on all who come.”
Pam Cooper, 58 volunteers at Royal Voluntary Service’s Community Centre in Hanley, Staffordshire which provides a lifeline to many older people in the area. She will be donating additional hours to help prepare and serve a Christmas lunch for around 70 people at the beginning of December. She says: “I volunteer as a kitchen assistant and will be increasing my hours in December to help make a tasty festive lunch. Many of the people who come to the centre live on their own and Christmas can be a particularly lonely time for them, so it is great to be able to invite them to enjoy a hot Christmas dinner in the company of others. For some it may be the only Christmas dinner or celebration they have. We will have a lot of food to prepare and it will be a busy few hours in the kitchen, but its good fun and very rewarding.”
If you are unable to commit to volunteering formally this Christmas there are still lots of ways to help your neighbours who may be older and alone. For instance you could:
1. Invite them to spend a few hours with you and your family over the Christmas period, or pop in to see them for a cup of tea and a mince pie
2. Find out if there are any events for older people happening locally i.e. a festive community lunch club and encourage an older neighbour to go. You could also offer to go with them or help them to get there. Some events taking place on Christmas Day for older people are listed on www.communitychristmas.org.uk
3. Make a short phone call to an older neighbour or relative on Christmas Day just to ask how they are and spread some cheer
4. Make someone a Christmas dinner in their home, or take them some festive food
5. Decorate someone’s house with Christmas decorations or fill their fridge with Christmas treats
6. Check in on an older neighbour to ensure they have the essentials (milk, bread etc.) needed to keep them going until the shops reopen
7. Royal Voluntary Service will continue to support older people in your community and if you wish to make a donation to support our work you can visit https://www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/donate. All donations gratefully received.
Royal Voluntary Service is one of Britain’s largest volunteering charities with over 25,000 volunteers supporting thousands of older people each month in hospitals and the community. The focus is on building confident lives, improving well-being and keeping loneliness at bay through an array of social activities and more structured support. The charity is also one of the largest retailers in the NHS, with its network of cafes and shops offering an oasis of calm in the busy hospital environment.
If you would like to volunteer in the New Year, or want to find social clubs and activities for older people in your area please visit www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk or call us on 0845 608 0122.