London can be an exhilarating place to live with the very best in live entertainment, amazing heritage and great shopping. But if you live alone, if you have already lived most of your life, if you have only a little to spend each week then London can be a very lonely place. People have a range of prejudices about all three of these characteristics – living alone, being older and having little money – so it means that people who are living alone, older and poor don’t have many friends. But that’s where a community plays it part – or more the point where you play your part.
In Rotherhithe and Bermondsey, we do have lots of older lonely single people who only have themselves for company in the winter. It’s hard enough coping in the cold when you share your home or have enough energy and health to get out and about. But if your faced with months of enforced solitude, it can be very dispiriting. People often thrive on having others around, to talk to, to share tasks with, to befriend. But older people in their own homes with little spare cash are just denied the simple pleasantries of everyday life. The BBC is highlighting this aspect of neighbourliness in their A Life Less Lonely series on BBC1 and on 12 December a day of programming across the BBC networks.
The great thing is that we can do something about this. Our only resource in this is our time. Many older lonely people live in flats or houses that are your near neighbours. Many poor lonely older people shop at the stores you shop at and travel on the same buses and foot paths as you. They are seldom out because its cold, their health may be failing and they are often not very mobile. But you are – or most of you are – healthy, better off and perfectly mobile. You can take a moment to talk to these often ignored people; as the BBC campaign suggests just #take10. You can drop by with a cake or even a small gift to show you care. It’s not much but it matters.
If you know any older folk in SE16 who will be alone this Christmas, then you can link them up with the great local offers of company, food and fun on Christmas Day. At Bacons College, Timber Pond Road, People Care at Christmas offers a traditional Christmas meal, entertainment and free door-to-door transport. If you know someone who might want to come along or volunteer, make contact with Les Alden on 07710 179 400. Find out full details at Southwark People Care Association.
If you know of someone who is older and housebound, Time and Talents runs a volunteer befriending service which matches up volunteers with a wide range of older people in SE16 and part of SE1. They offer a variety of activities and social groups and always looking for new volunteers to help out. If you want to know more contact Lisa Scott email@example.com or phone 0207 232 5668.
Another Christmas dinner is available for older people from SE16 who will otherwise be alone. For thirty years, Bermondsey Care for the Elderly have held a party for older residents in the Robin Suite at the top of Guy’s Hospital Tower in London Bridge. If you want to get a place at the party, contact Coral Newell or Kathy on 020 7237 9313 or drop into the Beormund Community Centre on Abbey Street, Bermondsey. On Friday 12 December, Phil Burkett of Bermondsey Beat (@BermondseyBeat) held a fund-raising party for Bermondsey Care for the Elderly and raised over £1500 to help fund the Christmas Party. Phil is always willing to pass on gifts or donations, so do contact him if you want to help with the meal.
Let’s do all we can to make winter bearable for our older citizens! There are loads of ways we can reduce loneliness in our community and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has produced a pack of resources to guide us toward a neighbourhood approach to loneliness. If you would like to take up the challenge and help SE16 to adopt these strategies, do get in touch. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get back to you.