Christmas can be a difficult time of year for many of us.

The expectation to be happy and jolly all the time often takes its toll, particularly when this time of year can bring back old memories of those no longer with us, or of happy times past.

It’s why checking in on friends, relatives and neighbours can have a particular impact, as whilst many of us will be merry and bright at Christmas time, many will be struggling.

It’s particularly difficult for those who live alone, often elderly, often vulnerable, and often without a community around them to provide support and emotional connections during a time when they can be so needed.

What this time of year does show us, is how strong the spirit of our communities is, and the impact we can have when we come together and support each other.

Whether it’s businesses, big and small, throwing their doors open on Christmas Day and welcoming anyone in need of some Christmas cheer and company through their doors, or simply checking in on a neighbour who might be on their own.

Every action has an impact, however insignificant it may seem, and simply by dropping a card round or inviting someone in for a cuppa and a mince pie, you could make their Christmas.

All year round, but particularly at this time of year, there are some fantastic organisations across Tameside and beyond that work to tackle loneliness.

Just recently, I had the pleasure of visiting Age UK Tameside’s 131 club, which does fantastic work supporting older people at risk of loneliness and isolation.

The club brings people together every week to take part in a range of activities from arts & crafts, quizzes, sing-alongs, and a home-cooked meal.

It provides people the opportunity to socialise, and make connections with others, which can make a major difference, especially for older people.

It is testament to the legacy of my former colleague, Jo Cox, that her Loneliness Commission is continuing to have a significant impact.

Their work, benefitting many organisations including Age UK, is driven by Jo’s vision that “I will not live in a country where thousands of people are living lonely lives forgotten by the rest of us.”

So whoever it might be, make sure you check in on someone who might be on their own at the moment, you never know the difference you could make.

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