Combating loneliness at Christmas

Staff from West Sussex County Council’s three Prevention Assessment Teams will be helping to combat social isolation among older people in the run up to Christmas.

The multi-agency PATs aim to help people living locally to stay healthy and remain independent, including providing help to access practical and emotional support, which could be crucial to some people in West Sussex over Christmas time.

Some of their work will include helping to direct socially isolated people towards extra winter events put on by the voluntary and community sector across the county.

These events, some of which have been funded through an extra £35,000 from West Sussex County Council, include providing hot meals and a warm atmosphere for people on Christmas Day, talks to groups about how to keep their homes warm, exercise and social activities such as trips to see matinee performances.

Christmas can be a difficult time to be an older person and alone particularly when other friends have been invited to spend the holiday with their own families.

Age UK has estimated that up to 500,000 older people will spend Christmas alone across the UK.

This is why West Sussex County Council is raising awareness about social isolation and is urging communities to check on their more vulnerable residents this winter, especially with Christmas approaching.

The County Council has also come up with some suggestions for what people can do to help keep themselves and their families warm, healthy and safe, available on the website at

Peter Catchpole, West Sussex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Adults’ Services, said: “Many older people will be alone this Christmas, so I am glad to see that organisations across West Sussex are doing what they can to help.

“Through the County Council’s Age with Confidence initiative we want to make sure that people are confident in preparing for and living well in old age.

“As the cold weather and darker nights come upon us, we all need to be alert and look out for others in our communities, for example, checking that their older or disabled neighbours are safe and well in the cold weather.”

Organisations that have put on events to help people through this time include:

Abbeyfield, which for the third year running, is inviting older people who might otherwise be alone over Christmas, to spend time at an Abbeyfield house or care home for a free festive dinner or even an overnight stay through its Companionship at Christmas initiative.

This gives people aged 55 or over and who live alone and independently an alternative to spending the period alone throughout the holidays (December 24 – January 4).

Three Abbeyfield houses in West Sussex are taking part in the scheme: Inglenook, Pound Road, West Wittering; Abbeyfield House, 21 Hurst Road, Horsham and Westall House, Birch Grove Road, Horsted Keynes, West Sussex. To find out more, contact the Companionship At Christmas hotline on 0845 052 3553.

Guildcare: Residents at Irene House in Parkfield Road, Tarring near Worthing will be welcoming visitors on Saturday, December 8, at 2pm to join them for festive fayre and seasonal treats – such as sparkly nails and some relaxing aromatherapy. For details, ring 01903 529600.

Age UK West Sussex, which will be running its ‘Spread the Warmth’ campaign to help publicise simple tips to help people stay warm and well in the cold weather.

The campaign also calls for everyone to pull together to make sure that vulnerable people are protected from the effects of cold weather.

To find out more, visit the website at or contact the information and advice freephone helpline on 0800 019 1310.

It will also be offering lunches and entertainment throughout December at its six activity centres in Crawley, Haywards Heath, Burgess Hill, Adur, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton. For more details ring 0800 019 1310 or click on

Its Cherry Tree Centre in Burgess Hill will also be opening on Christmas Day for Christmas lunches. For details or to volunteer on the day call 01444 236497.

The coldAlert system - -, which will send out texts, emails or voice messages directly to people whose health and wellbeing are vulnerable in cold weather. This was set up by East and West Sussex County Councils along with the Sussex Air Quality Partnership.