Scottish clubs and volunteers aim to help the lonely on Christmas Day

All over Scotland, volunteers are giving up their time at Christmas to help lonely and vulnerable people who would otherwise be alone.
Diners enjoy the Christmas Day Hearts Christmas lunch last year. Picture: Lisa FergusonDiners enjoy the Christmas Day Hearts Christmas lunch last year. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Diners enjoy the Christmas Day Hearts Christmas lunch last year. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Among many groups hosting lunches for elderly or vulnerable people on Christmas Day are the Hibernian Community Foundation and the Big Hearts Community Trust in Edinburgh.

At Tynecastle Park, around 130 people will be hosted for lunch by Big Hearts.

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“There’s a genuine opportunity for us to make a difference to the lives of people who wouldn’t have anyone else on Christmas Day,” said Craig Wilson, general manager of the charity.

“For lots of us, Christmas is a time spent with family and friends, but our job is doing a lunch for people who would otherwise be on their own.”

One of the challenges for staff at the charity is getting people to Tynecastle. Drivers from Central Taxis have agreed to help by ferrying people to the lunch who otherwise couldn’t make it.

Tesco has donated bags of food and useful supplies.

A large number of those attending the Big Hearts lunch – and other lunches on Christmas Day – are older people who would otherwise spend the day alone.

Mr Wilson said: “A lot of them will be elderly, or people who for whatever reason don’t have family around them.”

But other vulnerable groups will also be there. Big Hearts says it focuses on five groups – young people living in care, elderly people, people from other cultures, people with mental illness, and families living in poverty.

Nineteen volunteers will be helping on Christmas Day for the lunch organised by Big Hearts, not including the taxi drivers who are bringing people to the event, and staff at Tynecastle who are helping to serve the lunch.

The day after, Hearts play Hibs at Tynecastle, which makes organising the event more challenging.

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“We’ll have 20,000 people coming the next day, so we have to work around that,” Mr Wilson said.

The aim is to make the lunch as warm-hearted as possible.

“Our volunteers make everyone as welcome as possible,” Mr Wilson said. “For some of the people coming, even just coming through the door is a big step for them. So we have music, we have a great setting, the food will be good, it will feel like they are going out with family. We don’t want people to feel like this is a free lunch for people who are on their own and struggling.”

The Christmas lunch is not the only time Big Hearts helps lonely older people. They also run a weekly group called Memories for older people from the area to meet and discuss local history – and football.

The Scotsman has launched a campaign this Christmas to tackle loneliness, reach out to those who are alone at a time when others are celebrating, and support the work of charity Age Scotland.

One in six over-65s in Scotland – around 184,000 people – feel more lonely at Christmas than at any other time of year.

One in ten will be on their own on Christmas Day. And almost a quarter say they are not looking forward to Christmas at all, according to research by Age UK.

“Age Scotland research has found at least 106,000 of over-65s in Scotland will sit down to dinner alone on Christmas Day. That’s more than twice the capacity of Hampden Park,” Age Scotland chief executive Brian Sloan told The Scotsman. “Let’s make 2020 the year of connecting with isolated older people in all our communities. Working together, we can help to tackle the scourge of loneliness.”