Combatting isolation this Christmas
Many of us will be spending Christmas with family and friends this year but for some, the festive season can be a lonely and isolating time.
We know that some of our blind veterans face the prospect of spending Christmas Day by themselves. So every year we welcome as many as we can to our Centres of Wellbeing in Llandudno and Brighton.
This year 44 blind veterans will be staying with us during the festive period, many of whom will be with us for two weeks over Christmas and New Year.
During their stay our blind veterans will have the opportunity to enjoy a whole host of activities including crafting, Christmas movies, choirs, Christmas food tasting and a tea dance.
They will come together for a traditional Christmas Day, enjoying lunch with all the trimmings before watching the King’s first Christmas Day speech.
Some of those who are staying with us this year have told us what it means to them.
Elwyn is 86-years-old and has lived alone since his wife passed away eighteen months ago.
He says: “I’m so looking forward to spending Christmas in Llandudno. I’d be shattered if I wasn’t able to go as I’d be sat at home by myself, with my thoughts. I visited the centre in the past with my late wife and she loved it there. I know she’d be really happy that I’m going to spend Christmas there.”
Elwyn joined the Army in 1953 and spent three and a half years with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. He was based in Dortmund and Berlin and spent time as a guard at the infamous Spandau Prison.
He started to lose his sight in 1986 to macular degeneration. Luckily he found out about our charity begun receiving our support.
He says: “Blind Veterans UK saved my sanity. I honestly don’t know where I would be without them. They’ve taught me the crucial things I need to be able to live by myself. Things like how to stay safe in the kitchen and get around my local area. The skills you take for granted when you can see but become a real challenge when you lose your sight."
Mike, who is 96-years-old, lives on his own. He has two sons, but they live abroad and are unable to be with him for Christmas.
He says: "If it wasn’t for Blind Veterans UK, I would be spending Christmas alone this year but now I get to enjoy a fabulous Christmas lunch on a table with others of a similar age."
Mike joined the Royal Marines in 1944 at 17-years-old. He served with 44 Commando for three years and was based in Hong Kong.
In 2010, at the age of 84, Mike began to lose his sight due to an age related eye condition. Fortunately, he found out about our charity and started receiving our support in 2014.
He says: “Finding out about Blind Veterans UK has had a really positive impact on my life. They react to any problems or concerns immediately. They've encouraged me to try things that I never thought I would be able to achieve such as using a tablet which has allowed me to keep in touch with my sons around the world."
Tom is 86-years-old and has lived alone since his wife passed away two and half years ago.
He says: “I would have been spending Christmas on my own this year if it wasn’t for Blind Veterans UK. I am very close friends with another blind veteran and being able to spend Christmas with her at the centre means the world to me."
Tom joined the Royal Air Force in 1952 at the age of 16. He served for 24 years and held the rank of Flight Lieutenant when he left in 1976.
He began to lose his sight in 1995 due to a hereditary eye condition, macular dystrophy. Tom’s sight loss was gradual but at the age of 77, it had deteriorated to a level that forced him to give up work. He started receiving our support in 2017.
“I live on my own now, but I know that Blind Veterans UK are there if I need them, nothing is too much trouble. The staff are always looking at ways in which to keep us active. Since I’ve been with the charity, I have been helped enormously with my artwork. I have a box full of paint and have been taught methods to help me enjoy this hobby."