Campaign aims to tackle isolation in St Albans and Harpenden over festive period

Louisa and Margaret.

Louisa and Margaret. - Credit: Archant

A Harpenden volunteer is urging residents to help prevent older people from feeling lonely over Christmas.

Herts county council is taking part in the #endloneliness campaign in response to studies showing that older people who are isolated are at greater risk of ill health.

The research suggests loneliness can be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and can be worse for you than obesity and physical inactivity.

Louisa, an Age UK volunteer from Harpenden, said: “My mother-in-law came to live with us for the last four years of her life when she became very dependent. It made me realise how lonely older people can feel and this inspired me to volunteer to spend some time with the elderly. It also opened our family’s eyes to the challenges of getting older.

“Age UK introduced me to Margaret in January 2017. I visit her once a week and spend about an hour with her. We chat over tea and sometimes go into town to get a coffee.

“Margaret is a lovely lady and very independent. She is passionate about jigsaws and I look forward to seeing which one she has completed each week. She also loves reading, colouring, Sudoku and finding amusing news in the papers.

“We enjoy each other’s company chatting about the latest news, our lives and experiences. Margaret never tires of hearing about my family life and will always offer a helpful suggestion or two when I share something with her. It’s great to feel that I’m giving something back while also having an enriched life. We all need to look out for the elderly in our community.

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“One day we may be in their situation.”

The county council is offering tips to help elderly people over Christmas, including helping them with Christmas cards, decorations or buying and wrapping presents, inviting an older person over for a chat and helping them join a social club, as well as smaller gestures like taking their bins out for them.

Colette Wyatt-Lowe, cabinet member for adult care and health, said: “No one should be alone at Christmas, or indeed any other time of year. We are calling on people to take time out over the festive period and beyond to check in on older and vulnerable neighbours, friends and relatives to make sure they are warm and well.”