Find out about the people behind Royal Voluntary Service in our series of guest stories from our volunteers, staff and partners.
For most of us, Christmas is a magical time. Shop shelves are groaning with presents and delicious food just waiting to be shared. Every time we open a magazine or turn on the TV we’re faced with advice on how to host the perfect Christmas gathering. It’s a time of happiness and togetherness. But if there’s no-one to share it with, the festive season loses its sparkle. And that’s especially true for the nearly half a million older people who are set to spend this Christmas day on their own.
The Royal Voluntary Service has been working for many years to combat loneliness throughout the year, not just at Christmas. So we welcome the BBC’s series of programmes aired this week, Operation Meet the Street, which shines a spotlight on the UK’s epidemic of loneliness. Celebrity chef James Martin takes famous people back to their childhood homes to see who lives in the street now. The aim is to set up a local social network designed to tackle loneliness at a grass-roots level.
More people than ever say they’re lonely, and the problem grows as we get older. Many children fly the nest and set up home hundreds of miles away from their parents. Social networks contract because of illness and bereavement leaving many older people isolated in their own home, with their mental and physical health suffering as a result.
Operation Meet the Street is the kind of campaign which fits in well with our Good Neighbours schemes. We match lonely older people with one of our army of volunteers who can offer companionship and practical help. This could mean getting some shopping in, walking the dog, changing a light bulb or just sitting down for a friendly chat over a cup of tea. Social contact like this can make a huge difference to people who might otherwise not see anyone for days on end. We are also working in partnership with Community Christmas, which is a portal where you can search for events and activities taking place on Christmas Day, so that no-one is forced to spend Christmas on their own.
Operation Meet the Street is on BBC1 all this week at 9:15am and then available on iPlayer
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Thursday, 18 December 2014.