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Richmond Council is encouraging residents to be a good neighbour this Christmas and check on the well being of older people in their communities who live alone.

Christmas is about fun, laughter and spending time with family and friends. But for many older people, Christmas can be very lonely. In addition, as the temperatures plummet, the health of older residents can also deteriorate.

Age UK estimate that over 1.2 million older people in the UK are chronically lonely, which may contribute to the rise in the number of older residents who have to be admitted to hospital over the winter period through not looking after themselves. Here are some ways in which you can help keep your elderly neighbours safe and well this Christmas.

Encourage your neighbour to contact a local group - There are a large number of neighbourhood care networks in the borough, all aim to provide help and support for those residents who live alone, or need a helping hand. Some provide transport, prescription collections, befriending, shopping or gardening. Below are the contact details for groups in Richmond upon Thames.

Catch up over a cuppa - Instead of simply popping a Christmas card through the door, why not drop by with a card and box of biscuits? Whilst you are there, you can check if everything is ok with the resident and that their house is warm.

Host a dinner club - Next time you are preparing a meal, add some extra ingredients to stretch the dish and take a portion round to a neighbour. It’s a gesture that they will really appreciate and ensure they get a wholesome, nutritious meal.

Lay an extra place at the table - If you live next door to an older resident who lives alone, why not invite them round to share a meal with you and your family?

Help with the shopping - Christmas shopping can be stressful at the best of times, so imagine how worrying it might be for an elderly person? Why not suggest that you take a neighbour shopping? It could be as simple as a lift in to town or helping them to find and buy presents.

Deck the halls - Could you help a neighbour put up their tree or some decorations? Why not offer your services? You could help to get the decorations out of the loft and make their house look festive and bright.

Sing along - There are many carol and Christmas concerts around the borough. If you are going, could you ask a neighbour who doesn’t go out much?

Cllr Piers Allen, Chair of the Adult Social Services, Health and Housing Committee, is urging local people to be a good neighbour and watch out for elderly residents.

He said:

“Christmas time can be really lonely for many people. But it doesn’t have to be.

“This campaign highlights a significant problem not just in our borough, but across the country - too many older people are chronically lonely and aren’t getting the helping hand that they need during not just the festive season, but over the winter months.

“I would like to urge the people of Richmond upon Thames to show some community spirit and help out the vulnerable members in their community this winter.”

Local Neighbourhood Care Networks

Kew Neighbourhood Association

Teddington & Hampton Wick Voluntary Care Group

Richmond Good Neighbours

Whitton Network

FiSH Neighbourhood Care

Hampton & Hampton Hill Voluntary Care

Ham & Petersham SOS

HANDS Care Group

If you are worried about an older neighbour, there are a number of local organisations you can speak to, including Age UK. Go to: www.ageuk.org.uk/get-involved/no-one/for more information.