Bringing Sunderland’s older folk in from the cold at Christmas

Sheila Gent talks to Age UK volunteer David Goodfellow at her home.
Sheila Gent talks to Age UK volunteer David Goodfellow at her home.
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An annual Boxing Day lunch is aiming to spread Christmas cheer to isolated elderly people in Sunderland.

Thanks to dozens of Age UK volunteers in the city, the charity is able to hold a Christmas lunch on December 26, to bring elderly people together to tackle loneliness during the festive period.

It comes as we run our No One Should Have No One campaign with Age UK Sunderland, aiming to prevent older people feeling isolated.
Age UK Sunderland director Alan Patchett said: “When I first came here 13 years ago, I identified a number of people who were isolated.

“Quite often they spent the Christmas period by themselves, so I started the Boxing Day lunch for them.

“It has been going for 12 years and has grown in popularity.

“It is a lovely day full of Christmas cheer.”

Alan Patchett, Director of Age Concern at the Diamond Jubilee Dinner where a new logo and rebrand was announced as Age UK Sunderland.

Alan Patchett, Director of Age Concern at the Diamond Jubilee Dinner where a new logo and rebrand was announced as Age UK Sunderland.

About 40 elderly people take part in the lunch organised by volunteers and led by deputy directory Tracy Collins.

Every year, different guests are treated to the meal, cooked by an Age UK chef and served by about 12 volunteers.

The Age UK minibus, volunteers and Station Taxis all provide a free transport service to and from the lunch, which sees elderly people taking part in carol singing and games.

The event is not short of volunteers, but Mr Patchett stressed that many people can enjoy getting involved in volunteering for its other services, such as weekly lunch clubs held at various venues across the city.

“We have 12 volunteers, people young and old, who come along and support the event,” Mr Patchett added.

“We have different people each year who are alone at Christmas.

“If anyone knows someone who is by themselves for Christmas let us know and we can see what we can do.”

David Goodfellow, 77, who served on the Lord Chancellor’s advisory committee for magistrates for nine years in Sunderland, volunteers to help organise the event.

“We put on a meal and Santa Clause comes and everybody gets a present,” he said.

“We also make sandwiches for them to take home. The event provides company to people who would otherwise be alone during the holiday.” To refer someone for the lunch, call Julie Marshall on 0191 514 8346. Age UK can’t guarantee everyone a place as spaces are limited.