Christmas Day. And no one wants to be alone, particularly when death is close. One elderly Luton man with no family or friends was comforted in his last moments by Age Concern Luton’s compassionate CEO, Colette McKeaveney.
“He was someone who didn’t have anyone,” she explained. “He’d looked after his wife until she died a few years back, so he was on his own. He hadn’t been very well and we knew his time was imminent.
“I popped in to see him on Christmas Day. He was aware I was there and was so happy to have a vistor but he was already in that strange little place people go to when the end is near.
“He was so tired and I think finally it was quite a relief. It was desperately sad for us but he was ready to go.”
Colette and hundreds of caring volunteers forfeited time with their own families to make sure the town’s elderly did not feel lonely and abandoned, spending the festive season on their own.
The ACL team know that Christmas and New Year can be very difficult for our senior citizens, particularly those who’ve been bereaved or are poorly themselves.
“It doesn’t seem to matter whether you’ve lost someone recently or many years ago, Christmas brings back all the grief of their passing,” Colette said. “And there are so many ads on the television where everyone seems to be having a great time . . . except you.
“It somehow makes it worse that you’re facing another New Year alone and you’re not feeling up to scratch.”
She admitted she’d been overwhelmed by the response from the charity’s generous volunteers: “It was absolutely heartwarming, a big success story.
“They were all amazing – they visited people and took them to lunch clubs as well as opening up their own homes and inviting lonely oldies to share it with them, which was pretty special.
“Our wonderful handymen delivered heaters around town, even though it wasn’t particularly cold. And our magnificent home support workers and hospital discharge assistants also worked tirelessly over the holiday.”
Colette said: “There are so many poorly people, who need help each week. But we received hundreds of cards with really lovely messages, thanking us for being there.”
The charity is constantly fundraising to meet the growing demand for its services.