Posted: Friday 8th December 2017
December is here and the preparations for the festive period are now well underway for most of us. As I go about my daily routine, I see decorations going up in homes and public places and even see the return of those Christmas jumpers that have been languishing at the back of everyone’s wardrobes for the last 11-months.
It is at this time of year, that most of us begin to plan our family gatherings and look forward (in some cases) to spending time with family members and friends, who we may not have seen since the same time last year. I have ‘enjoyed’ many a Christmas evening shift as a patrol officer, attempting to mediate at various family events that have turned ugly after the 5th bottle of sherry and old family feuds have been inflamed along with the plum pudding.
But usually, these brief tiffs end in people embracing the festive sprit (or possibly the sight of handcuffs) and enjoying each other’s company, as they tuck into the mince pies and watch the communal episode of Mrs Brown’s Boys on the telly. Even those of us who will be working over the festive period, will share the day with our police family, the people we see almost as much as our actual family and who we strive alongside in our relentless efforts to keep people safe and society on the straight and narrow.
It is at this time of year that my mind falls upon those who will not share their Christmas with family, friends or colleagues and for whom the festive period is just another day in an isolated life. In the UK today, 1.2-million people over the age of 65-years live with crushing, chronic loneliness and a recent Age UK survey reports that at least 1-million elder citizens feel lonelier than usual at Christmas, for whom the day is just another day in their lives, and has no positive relevance.
Age UK have recently released a short (1-minute) video called ‘Just Another Day’(https://youtu.be/inyaBPWdZIM), which visually reminds us of the lonely and stark existence of the 3.9-million elder citizens in the UK, who state that they rely upon the television as their main form of companionship. Many will also be living with the effects of bereavement, sensory or cognitive impairment, physical isolation or other long-term or chronic illness.
We live in a time where fraud offences have increased beyond anyone’s expectations and many heartless criminals and crime groups behind large scale organised fraud, often target our lonely and isolated citizens due to the increased vulnerability that they suffer at this time of year. Many elders fall victim to these cruel deceptions and loose funds that they can never replace. Many feel unable to report their victimisation for fear of reprisals, or simply because they don’t wish to bother anyone with their problems, so tragically they become repeat victims, over and over again.
We can all play a part in overcoming this increasing societal issue, after all, it’s in our own best interests, as we will all be elderly one day (hopefully) and may even feel the effects of tragic loneliness in our own future lives. Practically, the signs of financial harm upon an older person can be readily spotted. Such as a neighbour having unnecessary work done of their house, or a relative receiving large amounts of unsolicited mail or buying quantities of vitamins or toiletries by mail order.
Of course, many of the scams which are targeted at the vulnerable happen in the victim’s own home, via the telephone, mail or increasingly by email and the internet. The only way to address these threats is to have a chat when we get the chance. I often broach the subject by saying something like ‘I heard of a really cunning scam the other day that is catching a lot of people out’ and then discuss how to avoid such criminal tactics. It only takes a minute, but can be invaluable in protecting those who are exposed to greatest risk.
So, please, as we dash about over the next few weeks busying ourselves with the pressures of the season, take a moment to think about those who will be alone this Christmas, and for whom this is a very dismal time of the year. Look up from your phone on the bus or in the supermarket queue and smile, or say ‘hello’. It could make the world of difference.
Merry Christmas everyone.
Ashley Jones is serving police officer and Trustee of Age UK Bristol and a volunteer with the Avon and Somerset Constabulary Senior Citizen Liaison Team Charity (www.sclt.us)
Age UK ‘No One Should Have No One’ video: https://youtu.be/inyaBPWdZIM
Latest edition of the Senior Siren Magazine: http://www.sclt.us/senior-siren/4573598653
Age UK has branches throughout the UK that offer support and befriending for elder citizens in need or those who suffer with the effects of loneliness and isolation:
Age UK Bristol: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/bristol/
Age UK Somerset: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/somerset/
Age UK South Gloucestershire: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/southgloucestershire/