While you’re planning your Christmas logistics this week, try to clear some space to share a meal or a chat with an elderly or isolated person in your community.
That’s the message from some of our key humanitarian organisations this festive season.
The Australian Red Cross, as part of its Social Inclusion program, works hard all year round to reach out to socially isolated people such as the frail, aged and disabled, to ensure they are not forgotten. Christmas is a key time when their services are most in need.
As part of their Telecross service, volunteers make daily phonecalls to those living alone, and on Christmas morning, those phonecalls will be an especially welcome message of friendship and good will. Volunteers will also be checking in on their safety, security and wellbeing, and can activate an emergency response if a call is unexpectedly not answered.
Social Inclusion is Vital for a Healthy Community
Lona Kuchey, head of Social Inclusion in NSW, said a simple phone call can be crucial for someone living solo.
“For people who have limited contact with family or friends, a phone call from Red Cross on Christmas Day makes a world of difference,” Lona said. “It’s especially important at Christmas, which can be a really tough time for many people.
“That reassuring phone call translates into better health, happiness and safety.”
While Telecross plays a vital role, Christmas is a chance for anyone to pick up the phone or cross the street, and have a chat with someone in the community who is elderly, disabled or isolated in some other way.
As part of its Christmas appeal, the Red Cross is calling on the community to support its social inclusion programs at www.redcross.org.au.
Share a Christmas Meal with the Elderly
Meanwhile, Australia’s peak body for dietitians is urging Australians to enjoy a meal with older relatives, friends and neighbours during the Christmas season.
Sharing a meal not only promotes social connectedness, but actually helps to prevent malnutrition, which is a sad reality for many isolated elderly people.
“Elderly people often eat alone, and many lack the ability or motivation to prepare and cook balanced and nutritious meals.”
Dietitian Joel Feren from the Dietitians Association of Australia said that 4 out of every 10 Australians over 65 are either malnourished or at a high risk of malnutrition because of social isolation. That can result in problems like osteoporosis, low immunity and poor wound healing.
“Elderly people often eat alone, and many lack the ability or motivation to prepare and cook balanced and nutritious meals,” Mr Feren said. “Some people call this the ‘tea and toast syndrome’.”
Improving social networks can lead to greater variety of diet, better health and quality of life. Mr Feren urged people to consider who they can reach out to in their community to share a meal with close to Christmas time.
“Christmas can be a particularly lonely time,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to share a meal with an elderly friend, relative or community member and boost both their physical and mental wellbeing.”