Did you know that 5,800,000 older people say that the television or their pet is their main form of company? 5.8 million people. And that was before the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
As we are currently in enhanced lockdown restrictions, and eight months since a first full lockdown, Covid19 has affected people across society, but older people have been particularly impacted in terms of their health and liberty. Many healthy older people over 70 will have been frustrated at having to ‘shield’ at home, and many vulnerable or frail older people will be fearful, anxious and uncertain of the future; and some will have suffered the loss of loved ones.
And so as we try and navigate through this period of further restrictions and with Christmas fast approaching, it is critical that we don’t forget about the older people around us, in our family, in our church, on our street. Life is difficult, but we also have an amazing opportunity to share the hope of Jesus, to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and to be the light in the darkness.
As we read in John 1 v 5, ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’.
But what does that mean practically? We can start by being intentional about loving our neighbour. Churches are ideally placed across our nation, to reach out into community, and so church is a good place to start. Let’s be checking on the older members of our church fellowship. Does your church have a telephone rota, to call the older people in your church who are living alone? Maybe we can invite some of those older people to join in with telephone fellowship and they themselves could be paired with another member of the church who lives alone and would value conversation.
When it comes to older people in our wider communities, we can reach out, and ensure no one feels forgotten. During the first lockdown there were many stories of people putting leaflets in letterboxes on their streets, offering practical support or a chat on the phone. Maybe you could send a postcard to an older person to remind them that they are not forgotten? We have produced a selection of Christmas postcards that could be used.
Maybe you could give an older person you know a call? Last year 2.5 million people aged 75+ had never used the internet, but the good news is that the telephone is enjoying a renaissance. In response to the coronavirus, Faith in Later Life, along with the Church of England and Holy Trinity Claygate, set up the Daily Hope telephone line, a free service for older people, broadcasting hymns, reflections and prayers, 24/7, over the phone. To date over 300,000 calls have been made, totalling 3.75 million minutes. The number is 0800 804 8044 and it is FREE from UK landlines and mobiles. Do you know an older person who could benefit?
As we navigate through this difficult season, let’s remember the older people around us. Who can you phone today for a chat?
Carl Knightly is the CEO of Faith in Later Life