There was room at the inn for over 100 older people who came together to enjoy a cracker of a Christmas celebration with national charity, Abbeyfield.
The event, hosted by older people’s charity The Abbeyfield Society with Durham pub, The Kingslodge Inn and Age UK Durham, was part of Abbeyfield’s annual Companionship at Christmas campaign. Offering older people affected by loneliness the chance to share physical, emotional and spiritual warmth, Companionship at Christmas runs throughout the festive period and beyond.
Silver revellers from Durham, Sunderland, Newcastle and Corbridge were among the party goers who tucked into a three course festive meal donated by The Kingslodge Inn and Abbeyfield, before taking to the dance floor and enjoying party games, live music performances and carol singing.
For 89-year-old Jean from Gilesgate, the highlight of the day was enjoying being surrounded by company and good cheer.
Jean, who has lived alone since losing her husband and childhood sweetheart 33-years ago, said: “I really enjoyed it and will think about this day for ages. I have enjoyed the company so much and there was a lovely atmosphere. I don’t get out and see everyone as much, as I don’t see so well. I am at my best having people around and today has been very special. I have made new friends today – and made lots of memories too.”
Also enjoying the party atmosphere and raising a special glass of birthday champagne was Rita Duckett who was celebrating her 101st birthday.
Rita, who lives at Abbeyfield’s The Newcastle Society Grove House in Gosforth, puts the secret of her longevity down to a glass of sherry each night before bedtime.
Alastair Mulvie, director of fundraising at Abbeyfield said: “It has been a tremendous day. Seeing so many older people simply enjoying themselves, laughing, sharing stories, dancing, enjoying good food and forging new friendships has been such a joy and captures the very essence of what Abbeyfield is all about.
“Abbeyfield was founded over 60 years ago to counter the debilitating loneliness faced by a forgotten generation of older people. That ethos continues today with campaigns such as Companionship at Christmas and our winter Feel the Warmth initiative.
“I would like to thank The Kingslodge Inn and Age UK in Durham for their support in laying on such a fantastic event. Working together with businesses and like-minded organisations like them allows us to be able to make a difference to the lives of older people and make their later years happier and more fulfilled.
Leanne Jeffrey is general manager at The Kingslodge Inn. She said: “I think we all felt ourselves welling up at times during the afternoon to see everyone having so much fun and enjoying themselves, like 91-year-old Joe who was dancing away to the music.
“Christmas is a time we associate with excitement, parties and celebrations, but for many older people it’s a time when they feel even more isolated. For many of those here today their only company is the television or radio.
“It means so much knowing that we’ve given so many people a day to remember; helped them to make new friends, given them a lovely meal and let them know The Kingslodge Inn is a place that’s welcoming and friendly for them to call in and see us at any time. We even have one lady coming along to join us for Christmas Day lunch and are now running a monthly lunch club that 50-elderly people come along to with Age UK and Abbeyfield. It has been a fantastic day and we have been very proud to play our part in hosting such a worthwhile event.”
Now in its eighth year, Companionship at Christmas has offered a lifeline of warmth and friendship to thousands of older people at Christmas.
Sadly, an estimated 500,000 older people are expected to spend Christmas alone in the UK.
The campaign sees Abbeyfield houses and homes across the country open up their doors to offer free overnight stays – so people don’t have to wake to an empty house on Christmas Day, meals, entertainment in the build up to Christmas and beyond.