The holiday season can be festive in the UK. It’s a time to catch up with friends and family, share a drink, exchange gifts.
But while this is the busy season for some, it can be the loneliest time of year for many forgotten seniors, who live by themselves and have little, if any, interaction with others. More than one million older people live with chronic loneliness in the UK. Seventeen percent are in contact with family, friends and neighbors less than once a week. For more than one third, their primary companion is the television.
Channel 5, one of Viacom’s newest companies and a powerful media voice in the United Kingdom, recently threw a spotlight on this sadly overlooked population with “Lonely at Christmas.” This stirring documentary explores the lives of three seniors who are facing another companion-less holiday season.
Inspired by these melancholy portraits, a group of Channel 5 coworkers decided to act locally to help seniors in their community. Chloe Stylianou, an employee in the network’s London office, sought out Friends of the Elderly, which helped her identify 87 local seniors who would be spending the holidays largely alone.
Stylianou and co-worker Chloe Skinner collaborated with a team from Friends of the Elderly to organize gift deliveries to each of these seniors on Christmas Day. “We thought it would be a lovely idea to send gifts from our colleagues at Channel 5 to let them know someone is thinking of them,” said Stylianou.
To underscore the impact that the gift deliveries could have, Stylianou and Skinner worked with Bethan Davies Wykes, Farah-Bertille Cherif and Anna Dally to organize employee screenings of “Lonely at Christmas” at Channel 5’s offices on Lower Thames Street and Hawley Crescent.
Moved by the documentary, employees purchased calendars, biscuits, soaps, puzzle books, hats and gloves, and other gifts, which they wrapped and transferred to the seniors’ caregivers to deliver on Christmas.
This small gesture may have a big impact in combating some of the life-threatening effects of loneliness, which include lower confidence and self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and an increased likelihood of dementia.
Anyone interested in contributing to the mission of helping the elderly combat loneliness can make a donation today.