Friday, 13 November 2015

Half a Million Elderly People Alone at Christmas

When I was heavily pregnant with Ebony, the John Lewis Christmas advert came out. If you’ve ever sat through a John Lewis Christmas ad (who hasn’t?), you’ll know that they make you shed a few tears. If you’ve ever sat through a John Lewis Christmas ad while pregnant, you’ll know that they cause actual floods of tears responsible for demolishing whole villages. I was pregnant over Christmas in 2011 (note: Christmas is not the same without all the amaretto and prosecco), that year the John Lewis Christmas advert focused on a little boy longing for Christmas. Not because he wanted presents, but because he couldn’t wait to give presents. I can’t even watch it now without crying. I was convinced that Ebony would be a boy and that she would actually be the boy from the advert.

Obviously, that didn’t quite work out. What I thought was genitalia at the birth turned out to be an umbilical cord, and so I had a little girl. And that little baby girl grew into a three year old who absolutely can’t wait to get presents at Christmas. To be honest, I don’t even think she’s been to John Lewis to choose me a gift.

This year, the advert focuses on the story of a lonely old man and a little girl who reaches out to him. It’s really heartbreaking, and I think it carries an important message about our society. People do feel lonely, especially at Christmas. While you’re surrounded by family, enjoying a glass of champagne, there could be somebody perhaps just a few doors away upset and alone. There was an advert a few years ago (I can’t remember who it was by), that featured an elderly woman answering the telephone to her son who was cancelling his visit at Christmas. I can’t think about that advert without crying either. Maybe I am an emotional woman.

There has been some criticism of John Lewis for spending so much money on an advert. I think I read £7 million somewhere, which is a truly crazy amount when you think of it. Especially when you consider that students from The Brixton School of Communications Art were able to replicate the advert for just £700. Their take on the original advert is nothing short of adorable, I especially love the old guy’s eyebrows.

I do think, however, that since John Lewis were destined to spend an outrageous amount of money on their advert, I think it’s pretty nice that they used the opportunity to raise awareness of an important societal issue. And, you know, forcing pregnant women to expel some of that retained fluid. It is estimated that half a million elderly people will be spending Christmas Day alone in the UK this year. Of course, some of them might choose to do that, and you can’t really force community Christmas fun on those who don’t want it. But for those who would prefer to be surrounded by people this Christmas, I think the advert may help to raise awareness of this issue and, hopefully, spur some individuals into action.

There is an organisation called Community Christmas which organises community Christmas events across the country. With lottery funding and donations, the organisation creates events where elderly people can celebrate Christmas together. Last year, volunteers organised 152 community Christmas events across the country and helped hundreds of old people to spend Christmas with company. You can find out more about the organisation, how you can get involved and make a donation here.


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