FEATURE: No-one needs to be lonely with charity’s festive fun and fine food

The Christmas Day event last year
The Christmas Day event last year

As we tuck in to our festive feasts and over-indulge in the company of family and friends, many older people will be spending Christmas time alone.

But last year, many locals were given a lifeline when Age UK Horsham District opened the doors of Lavinia House, Dukes Square, to welcome those who were destined to spend such a special time with no one to celebrate with.

The Christmas Day event last year

The Christmas Day event last year

And after being heralded a success, the charity are once again hosting fun festivities on Wednesday, December 25 between 10.30am and 2.3opm.

“It’s quite a nerve-wracking thing to put your name down for something if you don’t know anyone who’s going to be there but it’s so friendly and warm,” explained Deborah Johnston, organiser of the event and coordinator of the Suzanne Green Day Centre.

“I’m quite shocked about how many people who have families but don’t seem to get together at Christmas so I think it’s absolutely vital because it can be a very lonely time.”

For just £10, the day for those who have booked in advance will include a lunch with all the trimmings, entertainment and a Christmas gift. Accessible door to door transport can also be arranged for £5 return trip.

JPCT 211113 S13480295x  Age UK's Christmas Day where they're welcoming the elderly to Lavinia House -photo by Steve Cobb

JPCT 211113 S13480295x Age UK's Christmas Day where they're welcoming the elderly to Lavinia House -photo by Steve Cobb

Numbers are however limited with last year taking around 38 people and 40 the maximum due to building size.

“When you keep it small, the atmosphere is lovely,” added Deborah. “Because there weren’t too many tables and they were close together, there was banter going around the room but in a larger venue you probably wouldn’t have that feel and I think it would lose something.”

The Salvation Army are also donating £250 towards the day revelries and West Sussex County Council have provided valuable funding through their Winter Weekend Activities which Age UK Horsham are very grateful for.

This will help go towards a good chef and the entertainment which last year consisted of a magician, Christmas quiz and someone dressing up as Father Christmas to give out goody bags which Deborah’s husband did last year.

Friends Frieda Light, aged 88, and Meg Still, 90, both attend the Suzanne Green Day Care Centre and also spent Christmas Day at Lavinia House in 2012.

“It was lovely and much nicer than being on your own,” explained Meg. “I’ve always had my husband and then he died and I had to move because the people upstairs starting taking advantage of me because I was on my own.

“When I’m on my own indoors I speak to my husband’s photograph but he doesn’t answer and it’s being together with people and being able to talk to people.”

Both Meg and Frieda were pictured in the County Times last year when they attended, made friends and have put their names down for an equally as enjoyable event this year.

“I enjoyed being with somebody because I more or less live on my own and don’t see a lot of people, it was really nice,” said Frieda.

“My eyesight is really bad as well, I’m almost blind so it was nice to get out.”

Meg added: “And there was no cooking, no washing up. We’re a pair - it’s funny how you meet people alike isn’t it.”

A team of helpers will be there to help the day run smoothly and to serve the dinners. Although Deborah is unable to go this year, her experience last year was memorable for her.

She said: “Me and my husband thought it was wonderful. I happened to be family free last year, but I’m not this year, and it was a great way to spend Christmas day.

“We’ve got some fantastic people helping this year and judging by what people say to me, it really enhances their Christmas doing this for someone else. It didn’t feel like work.”

To make a booking, donate gifts , to offer help or for more information call Deborah Johnston on 01403 240131

To make a financial donation go to www.ageuk.org.uk/horshamdistrict/how-you-can-help/donations/