We all know that Christmas is going to be a little different this year.
Treasured catch-ups with friends only seen once or a twice a year will move online, and precious family outings to the panto or carol concerts will be replaced with a night at home watching a favourite festive film.
As for Christmas Day itself, the thought of not being with our parents, siblings and extended family is hard to accept. How many of us are already dreading the thought of spending December 25 on our own?
But for thousands of people across Scotland, this is the reality every year.
Age UK research shows that one in six over 65s in Scotland – around 184,000 people – feel more lonely at Christmas than any other time of year, with one in 10 spending the day on their own.
Even before coronavirus, loneliness was on the up due to the ageing population and the closure of community meeting points like the pub or corner shop, according to Age Scotland’s chief executive Brian Sloan.
Now a study published by Stirling University this week has confirmed that social distancing has increased those feelings of loneliness even further, with smaller social networks and social support worsening the health and well-being of over 60s.
But, while coronavirus has undoubtedly turned our lives upside down, it has also shown us what really matters: staying connected to the people most important to us.
We need your help!
That’s why the Press and Journal is preparing to launch its Connect at Christmas campaign.
This festive period, we will shine the light on some of the charities and groups working to tackle loneliness among people of all ages. From volunteers manning a telephone friendship line to those running virtual cuppa and blether sessions, we’ll be celebrating those working to tackle isolation in their communities.
We’re also working hard on plans to bring some festive fun into your homes, but need your help. We are pulling together an online diary of virtual events happening across the north and north-east throughout December. What’s happening in your community that we can share, and spread the joy for those who may otherwise be sat at home alone this festive period?
Likewise, is there someone in your community who goes out of their way to help an isolated neighbour? Are you a 20-something who moved to Aberdeen for work just before lockdown, quickly found yourself working from your spare room, but went online and found a fantastic group of new friends through a virtual choir? We would love to share these stories, and hopefully, help others connect not just for Christmas, but well into 2021.
Last year, the above poem was sent anonymously to me at work and it has stuck with me for many reasons – particularly these lines:
“I’m old so nobody cares about me,
“I’ve lost my looks so nobody sees me,
“But I’m still here, so take notice of me.”
This Christmas, let’s take notice of each other. Post a Christmas card through the door of an elderly neighbour. Drop off some baking to the new young family down the road. Pick up the phone. Make a connection.
To share your stories and events for our diary, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and keep an eye out for the official launch of Connect at Christmas on November 30.