Last month, millions of people around the world shed a tear for this sweet holiday commercial released by the British department store John Lewis. The ad showed a little girl looking through a telescope only to realize there was a lonely old man living on the moon. I know I wasn't the only one who got choked up when the little girl was finally able to connect with the elderly man to let him know that he wasn't alone. John Lewis collaborated with the charity Age UK to develop the ad and encourage more people to reach out to elderly people in their communities.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services' Administration on Aging, roughly 12.5 million Americans over the age of 65 live alone. Sure, many of these folks have family nearby, but there are many who don't. Age UK notes that it's not unusual for some elderly people to go a month without speaking to anyone.
That kind of isolation is hard enough every other time of the year, but it can be devastating during the holidays. Even for folks who have someone checking on them now and again, it may be difficult to manage the hustle and bustle of the season. There are cards to write, presents to buy and wrap and meals to make. Those are not easy tasks for those whose minds and bodies may not work as well as they used to — not to mention the 4.2 million people over the age of 65 who are living below the poverty line and may not be able to afford the extra expenses brought on by the holidays.
The point is, if you know of an elderly person in your family, your church or your neighborhood, now is the time to reach out. If they live far away, call or even Facetime if possible. If they live nearby, offer to help with shopping or card writing or just see if they'd like some company to watch a Christmas movie on TV. For you, it may feel like just one more thing to fit into your busy holiday schedule. But for them, it may be the only interaction they have all season.
Make this holiday season about more than just presents and parties. Make it about connections and community and caring for those around you.
You won't regret reaching out.