Sunrise Senior Living recently got in touch to share some research from the group Campaign to End Loneliness which has shown how detrimental loneliness can be to a person’s health, especially for older people. Sunrise Senior Living provide all types of care for the elderly and actively encourage community participation at their care home across the UK, so this is an issue that is close to their hearts. The Campaign to End Loneliness is warning that loneliness and isolation are as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and is calling on local authorities to take the lead on reducing and preventing loneliness in their local areas. One in five people aged 60 and over who experience loneliness say that they have no one to turn to, according to a new poll published last month. In order to help raise awareness of the problem, we were asked if we'd like to host a dinner for anyone who might be feeling lonely - parents, grandparents, neighbours ...
Sunrise Senior Living sent us through a kit to help us on our way, which included a shopping voucher, a pack of cards and a board game. My instant thought was to invite the old lady at the end of our road who has been adopted as a kind of Madhouse Family honorary granny. She loves seeing us and we try to pop along to see her whenever time allows (which is much less often than I'd like). Unfortunately, her son died last year and she always ends up in tears with me giving her a hug, at a total loss for what to say to make her feel better, and the Madhouse kids looking on not understanding why she is so upset. We may only live a few doors down but it would be too far for her to walk and she'd never make it up our stairs so inviting her to our house was out of the question. I contemplated going en masse to her house but her kitchen would never fit us all in and I think she'd be quite overwhelmed. I decided to scale things down and take along a few of the cookies that we'd made, along with a drawing that Pierre had done for her with lots of hearts. She cried again but I think they were happy tears and we ended up having a long chat and a glass of lemonade, interspersed with lots of hugs from Pierre and reminiscing about times gone by.
For the anti-loneliness dinner, we therefore decided to invite over our favourite OAPs - the Madhouse grandparents ! I wondered what to cook, looking at the recipe suggestions from Sunrise Senior Living, then decided that the best way to combat loneliness is to make people feel like they are genuinely part of the family, therefore a no frills take-us-as-you-find-us meal was the way to go. We had a bit of a free for all, with Madhouse Daddy cooking up a storm on the barbecue while I provided hasselback potatoes, salad and tomatoes.
Dessert was simple - a Spiderman birthday cake for Pierre !
The kids had lots of activities that they wanted to rope the grandparents in to, and at one point, poor Madhouse Grandad ended up having his nails painted by Juliette ! Board games and other activities involving the kids are a great way of avoiding awkward silences if you're not sure what to talk about with an elderly neighbour, for example.
I decided to rescue Madhouse Grandad from Juliette's pink varnished clutches and we went for a stroll along the canal path, to look at the old barges.
We also stopped off for a play in a playground we passed.
The afternoon flew by and, as you can tell by the smiles, everyone had a great time !
This has really inspired me to make more of an effort to keep in touch with the old lady at the corner. Even if it's just a flying visit or a slice of homemade cake on a paper plate, it only takes half an hour for us but really breaks up her day and she always says it makes a world of difference to her. I always feel bad about her crying, but it's probably better for her to cry on my shoulder than all by herself and just having someone to talk to hopefully helps to ease her pain slightly and makes her feel less alone.
Ending loneliness is a huge task but making just one person feel slightly less alone is definitely a step in the right direction.
Disclosure : I received a kit, including a grocery voucher and board games, in order to host a Campaign to End Loneliness meal.