It has been three months since I uploaded a blog for that I am sorry! Earlier this month I attended my Oxford interview so if my experience is something you would be interested in reading then like and comment 🙂 I am back now and hopefully for good! This blog post is talking about an important issue which is dangerously being ignored: the isolation of our older community. This blog post is split into two sections:
- Loneliness in the older community
- Dosti Project – Christmas Campaign.
I would implore you to at least read section two as it talks about how you can get involved with a project that delivers gifts to lonely older people during Christmas time. Okay preamble over, on with the blog post!
As the ageing population in the UK grows year on year, so does the crisis of isolation among the older population. This heartbreaking situation, too often ignored by the British public, is having a huge impact on our society and is surely becoming a deep rooted flaw within our communities.
According to Age UK, more than 2 million people in England over the age of 75 live alone, and more than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member. (1) We need to understand how these figures have been allowed to grow, but more importantly, what we as individuals can do in our community to tackle this pressing issue.
Particularly following the age of 75, you find older people are no longer the central hub of their children’s lives, their spouses may have passed away and they find it difficult to socialise outside of their home or place of care. The circumstances of their life increase the likelihood of their isolation and often they are not strong enough to speak out against their continued loneliness. Therefore it is down to the community who have reaped the rewards of our older generations hard work and support by helping them in their time of need.
Loneliness is a bigger problem than simply an emotional experience. Research shows that loneliness and social isolation are harmful to our health: lacking social connections is a comparable risk factor for early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is worse for us than well-known risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity. Loneliness increases the likelihood of mortality by 26%. (2)
How can you help?
On a more regular basis there are schemes set up throughout the UK to support the older community. To find out more about what you can do go to the Age UK website linked below for more information:
Dosti Project- Christmas Campaign
However, in this particular blog post I would like to raise awareness of a scheme that my local Muslim community has set up and run for the past two years.
After witnessing first hand the mental health impact of isolation in the older community, my mother decided to set up the Dosti project – Christmas Campaign. Essentially, as part of this project, every Christmas we contact nursing and residential homes across the local area, collect the names of older residents who have very few or no family and friends visiting during the festive season and through the proactiveness and donations of the local community we create Christmas gift bags.
Last year we went around 6 nursing homes delivering gifts, stopping to chat with them and giving the gifts personally; this year, the second year we have run this project, we doubled the number of nursing and residential homes and delivered 40 Christmas gifts.
My personal experience
Honestly, after seeing the smiles on their faces when delivering the gifts my heart was filled with happiness. One woman had tears in her eyes as she said ‘I can’t get over this’ and it was an incredibly powerful moment. The simple act of putting a few presents in a bag created such a wonderful moment and it was an addictive feeling. I truly believe in the power this project has to create change within a community and the great thing about it is how little time and effort it takes. We understand people lead busy lives, particularly around Christmas time however this project took a grand total of a few hours to organise and execute, and the more of the community that gets involved, the more evenly the work load is spread.
How you can get involved
As the project grows we want to involve people from across the UK to be proactive within their community and set up this project in their area next Christmas. If you are interested in learning more about how little effort goes into making such a huge impact and how you can start up this project in your area contact: https://twitter.com/IftikharFatima
Thank you for reading this blog and I hope we see this worthwhile project taking off in the next couple of years! If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask and be sure to share this blog post if you can to raise awareness!