Happy New Year to all readers of the Retford Times. I hope that you have all had at least some time to rest and enjoy the company of friends and family over the festive period.
The festive season is also a time however to think of those in our communities who are elderly and may no longer have the family and friends whose company they once enjoyed. Just before Christmas I attended a ‘Contact the Elderly’ meeting at St Saviour’s Church Hall. Contact the Elderly is the only national charity dedicated to tackling loneliness and social isolation among older people. The charity organises monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for people aged 75 and over. It was a real pleasure to meet the group and I can assure anyone who thinks that they might be interested in joining that they will have a fun and interesting time if they do.
Unfortunately in these days of austerity it is often the elderly who suffer the most. Winter is a particularly dangerous time, especially since over the past five years heating a home has become 63 percent more expensive. Now over a quarter of households with inhabitants aged over 60 live in fuel poverty and many older people can now only afford to keep part of their home warm. In a country as rich as ours that is a national disgrace.
The elderly are also increasingly affected by the food poverty in the UK. The people who volunteer in ‘food banks’ do brilliant work and try to ensure that no-one goes hungry. However, the fact that so many people are forced to go to food banks in the first place is absolutely unacceptable. I know that many local people have already donated to food banks as they understand how bad things currently are.
The scale of the problems our society is now facing should make us even more thankful for the volunteers, community and church groups that pick up the pieces and provide a safety net. Volunteers for groups like Contact the Elderly or at local food banks are the unsung heroes of our country. As day centres, libraries and other facilities close options for older people are running out.
Last month there were three fires locally resulting in two tragic deaths. The causes will be determined by the appropriate authorities, but the spate of fires should make us all follow the advice of Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue and take extra care. The new fire station in Retford is very welcome as an important part of local safety.