Older people in Dales face Christmas alone

Wirksworth Christmas party, Ian and Gill Ambrose with son Alasdair, daughter Kirsty and her husband Lee and daughter Mya
Wirksworth Christmas party, Ian and Gill Ambrose with son Alasdair, daughter Kirsty and her husband Lee and daughter Mya

Scores of older people across the Dales face Christmas alone in front of their televisions, a charity is warning.

Age UK estimates that 450,000 older people will spend the special day by themselves this year.

Katy Pugh, of the Derby and Derbyshire branch, explained that instead of it being just another day in front of the television for a lot of older people, the loneliness is compounded by the fact that everything in the media is geared up to portray an image of happy families getting together.

“You can’t quite escape Christmas,” Katy said. “All the representation of it is that everybody is getting together and that heightens the fact that you’re on your own.”

The 2011 census showed more than 4,600 people of pensionable age were living alone in the Derbyshire Dales.

Katy explained that while many of these people would not be alone this Christmas, funding cuts meant there were fewer options in place for those who were.

“A lot of smaller groups that would usually have provided Christmas lunches have either disappeared over the years or their grant funding has been cut,” she continued. “Being alone when you don’t want to be is always difficult, but when you have been newly bereaved or moved house that really highlights the fact that you’re on your own.”

The Wirksworth Christmas Dinner is held at Waltham House for anyone who does not wish to spend the day alone, offering them a good home–cooked meal.

Gill and Ian Ambrose, of Bolehill, took over the running of the event from Methodist Minister Martin Williams and his wife Ruth about nine years ago.

“For Ian and myself it’s part of our faith,” Gill said. “Christmas is a wonderful celebration and it’s really wonderful to be able to share the joy of Christmas with people who might otherwise be sitting watching telly on their own.”

The meal usually attracts between 45 and 55 diners – the majority of whom are elderly.

It costs approximately £500 to put on, which Gill sources by asking for donations from churches and local businesses.

The whole Ambrose family is now involved in the day – daughters Kirsty and Clare help and son Alasdair as head chief.

Son–in–law Lee Ambrose–Smith, started getting involved with the Christmas Day four years ago.

He said: “People get the idea that it’s like a soup kitchen, but it’s not like that, it’s a nice Christmas.”

A team of volunteers also help with the event and Wirksworth town councillors Irene and Mike Ratcliffe support it.

Anyone wishing to attend on Christmas Day, or make a donation, can call Gill Ambrose on 01629 823426 or email gill.ambrose@hotmail.co.uk