A campaign inviting people across Lancashire to send Christmas cards to local care homes has been launched.
Festive Cards for the Holidays, run by Lancashire County Council, encourages people to send a card to care homes taking part in the scheme, to help brighten up the Christmas season and tackle loneliness and isolation.
As well as being something nice to receive in the post, the Christmas cards help to initiate conversations among the residents and bring back happy memories.
Research shows that this has many health benefits, particularly for people who are feeling lonely or isolated, or living with dementia.
County Councillor Joan Burrows, champion for older people, said: “Christmas is a happy time for many, but can also be a very lonely time, particularly for people living in care homes.
“National figures from Age UK show that 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with friends or family for a month, and that 60% of people in care homes get no visitors at all.
“Loneliness can have a terrible effect on their mental and physical health, but if you have some spare Christmas cards, stamps and five minutes to spare, you can make a real difference to people’s lives.
“Residents discuss the cards they’ve received and talk about their memories of Christmas and their families and friends, which helps them build connections between each other and feel less lonely.
“We ran a similar scheme called Postcards for Kindness over the summer and it was a real success. We hope the Christmas cards campaign will be just as popular and spread some Christmas cheer across our care homes.”
County Councillor Shaun Turner, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, added: “Loneliness is a major health issue. Research has shown that chronic social isolation can reduce life expectancy by an equivalent amount to smoking.
“Studies have also found that people who report a high degree of loneliness are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
“Encouraging people to remember events, bring back fond memories and spend time with others is vital in tackling loneliness and helping to slow the onset of dementia.
“Sending a Christmas card is something you can do that will only take a moment, but will put a smile on someone’s face, tackle loneliness and help everyone get into the festive spirit.”
Find out more about the campaign and which care homes are taking part by visiting the Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria website.