No need to be lonely this Christmas thanks to these community lunches
For many of us Christmas Day is filled with celebrations and social gatherings with family and friends.
But for some, especially the elderly, sharing this day with others is not possible, making it instead one of the loneliest times of the year.
It's estimated that almost one million older people in the UK will spend the day alone and will have very little contact with anyone over the Christmas period.
And they are not the only ones as loneliness at Christmas can also affect younger generations who for many different reasons have no one to spend the day with.
But for those who do want some company while they eat a turkey dinner or join in some carol singing there is good news.
Kind-hearted venues across the region will be throwing open their doors to people from all walks of life on Christmas Day.
Community Christmas believes that no elderly person in the UK should be alone on Christmas Day unless they want to be and encourages community organisations to host festive lunches.
Free events are taking place across the Black Country as well as in Staffordshire and Wyre Forest.
Abbeyfield Parkdale in Tettenhall Road, Wolverhampton is among the venues taking part and is inviting older people to join them. Anyone wishing to attend needs to book by calling the care home on 01902 710581.
Oldbury Congregational Church is providing free transport for diners from Sandwell so they can enjoy a traditional Christmas lunch and is also on the lookout for volunteers to help on the day.
Places must be booked by calling Natiesh Marshall on 07596 232880 or email OldburyOutreach@gmail.com
Also opening its doors is The Savoy Centre in Netherton where light refreshments will be served in the afternoon to visitors. Spaces need to be booked by calling Matt Brookes on 01384 818156 or email email@example.com
A traditional lunch is also on the menu at Christ Church in Lye, Stourbridge which is open to diners of all ages as long as they book ahead.
It has been organised by Lye Community Project and Rev Simon Falshaw from Christ Church.
Senior social worker Ghulam Shabar said: "We've been doing this for the past five years. It's for the most vulnerable people who we work with during the year. We raise the money ourselves to hold this event for the community."
Places should be booked by calling 01384 813664.
Bearwood Chapel in Smethwick is also taking part in the Community Christmas event. Visitors need to book their seat in advance by contacting Dave Williams on 07791622122.
Also hosting Christmas Day lunch is Bupa Hammerwich Hall Care Home in Burntwood, which will be open from 11am until 5pm. Places need to be booked by calling 0800 115 4520.
A festive lunch will also be prepared and cooked at Stourport Baptist Church.
Pastor Paul Ella said: "We ask that people bring along a bag of sprouts or potatoes or something else and then we all sit down and prepare the meal together, cook together and then eat together.
"We've been doing this for five or six years and it has a nice family feel." To find out more call 01299 489319.
Age UK is also appealing for people to spare a thought for elderly neighbours.
Nearly half of the older people the charity surveyed – equating to almost 5.7 million people aged-65 and over – feel their days can be repetitive, almost a quarter admitted that Christmas isn't a special day for them and just passes them by.
Based on the survey, the charity estimates that getting on towards a million people aged 65 and over don't see or hear from someone for days on end over the festive period.
And at Christmas time, on days when older people do not see or hear from anyone, over half rely on the TV for companionship
As part of its work to tackle loneliness, the charity runs services like Age UK Advice, open every day, including Christmas Day.
Charity director Caroline Abrahams said: "Chronic loneliness is not only horrible to experience day in, day out, it can also have a devastating impact on an older person's mental and physical health.
"That's why at Age UK we are committed to being here year round for older people, to help tackle the loneliness that is blighting far too many later lives."
To find out more see www.communitychristmas.org.uk or call 0800 063 9285.