‘Tis the season of goodwill

We know Christmas can be an especially lonely time, particularly for those in later life, who can, for whatever reason, find themselves spending the festivities alone.

This article is from Catherine Johnstone CBE, chief executive of Royal Voluntary Service (RVS). We have partnered with the RVS for over five years. We’ve worked together to support vulnerable older people in hospitals and at home. Together we’ve been fundraising, volunteering and funding some very exciting projects.

RVS has helped us set up a customer referral service so we can support our own vulnerable older customers with our lifetime mortgage product. We continued to be aligned in our purpose inspire people to volunteer and helping our older vulnerable customers.

In Catherine’s words………

They say loneliness can be as detrimental to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It’s a worrying statistic about a situation that doesn’t discriminate. Loneliness and isolation can affect anyone, at any time of life.

We know Christmas can be an especially lonely time, particularly for those in later life, who can, for whatever reason, find themselves spending the festivities alone.

Positively, Christmas is also a time for giving and there is something about the festive season that brings out the best in us. We feel more compelled to ‘do good’ and gift our time to support others.  A study we released last year suggested nearly one in five adults in Great Britain planned to volunteer over the festive period, with 14% intending to volunteer on Christmas Day itself.

I know Royal Voluntary Service volunteers will be pulling out the stops to make the festive period as joyous as possible for those in their community, especially for people who are older and possibly more isolated at this time.

A number of our volunteers will be sharing extra time during the month of December –to help make and serve up delicious Christmas meals at anyone of our lunch clubs; lead festive themed activities in our community centres; provide companionship to older patients in hospital and even to open up a hospital café on Christmas Day so those visiting loved ones can still get a hot cuppa and festive cheer during their visit.

Of course, our volunteers don’t just give their time at Christmas as the majority make a year-round commitment. Without them none of the services we provide either in our communities or across the NHS would be possible and hundreds of thousands of individuals lives would be very different.

Increasingly there is enormous unmet need for the services we provide and we believe more can be done in the community to help tackle a range of issues, including loneliness. Consequently, we are seeking more volunteers to join our ranks, so we can deliver even greater impact.

Earlier this year we launched one of our biggest volunteer recruitment drives since the Second World War. Working in partnership with Legal & General, our successful Step Forward campaign saw us issue a call to action for people of all ages, particularly retirees, to volunteer.

Already a large majority of our volunteers are aged 65+ and research shows those retirees who volunteer, feel happier (64%) more positive (62%), and less lonely (45%). This wellbeing message has been central to the campaign and we have emphasised the role volunteering has to play in enjoying a colourful and fulfilling retirement. 

On the other hand, volunteering doesn’t have to wait until retirement, as Legal & General employees are proving. Many of their employees are now volunteering with us regularly, and can be seen taking our iconic trolley shops around the wards at hospitals in Brighton and Cardiff.  Employees take it in turns to do a trolley round each week, offering patients snacks and everyday essentials, and most vitally a friendly face and companionship – a volunteering opportunity that they fit around their work commitments.

We’d love to welcome more people to our volunteering family next year, but as we approach Christmas, ask everyone to look out for vulnerable neighbours and older or isolated friends and relatives. You’d be surprised how big a difference, small acts of kindness make. So why not pop in to check an older neighbour has the essential food they need to keep them going while the shops are closed or even invite them into your home for a mince pie and a chat.

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