Christmas lunch held for over 60s in UK's 'loneliest city'

The charity pairs older 'VIPs' with volunteers based on shared interests to help tackle loneliness in the community.

Older people experiencing isolation have got into the festive spirit at a Christmas lunch hosted by a local community group.

Befriending service Vintage Vibes named Edinburgh as ‘the loneliest city for over-60s’ in the UK, with more than 11,000 always or often alone.

Research found around two in five will have the TV as their main form of company over this Christmas period.

The charity pairs volunteers and lonely older people or ‘VIPs’ based on shared interests and the matched friends then meet up weekly in Edinburgh.

This week, Vintage Vibes had its first in-person Christmas celebration since the Covid pandemic which has allowed VIPs and their volunteers to get into the festive spirit together.

Betty Hyland is a VIP who found herself feeling isolated after she broke her hip and lost her sister, leaving her housebound and living alone.

However, being paired with Aly Kuranowicz has made a huge difference to her life.

She said: “She comes at the weekend and takes me out. We get out and try different coffee shops all over Edinburgh.”

Aly added: “I look forward to this every week and I work from home so it’s a good way to get me out of the house too.”

The charity is calling for more volunteers to come forward.

Vintage Vibes is on the lookout for more volunteers so that it can continue to tackle loneliness in the capital.

Georgia Artus, development manager at Vintage Vibes, said: “We know that people who are lonely are more likely to become depressed, more likely to become anxious, less likely to survive cancer, more likely to have heart disease and develop dementia. Across the board, it can impact you in a horrible way.

“It’s been fantastic to have so many people come along this year and we hope there will be more and more friendships in the future.”

Members of the public are also being asked to send a Christmas card to a lonely VIP to help brighten up their Christmas.

Georgia said: “We know that these cards mean a huge amount to those who receive them, with some people not receiving any other cards or gifts over the festive period.

“In previous years we have received cards with personal messages, drawings, photos, jokes and even little decorations.”

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