How you can make sure no one in Norwich is lonely this Christmas
A call goes out today to ensure that no one in Norwich has to spend Christmas alone.
With the weather getting colder and the nights drawing in, many elderly people face long and lonely months of isolation.
The Norwich Evening News is urging readers to make a difference to the elderly, vulnerable and isolated by signing up to become a Voluntary Norfolk community befriender.
By registering this week, befrienders can be matched with a client and start making a real difference to people's lives in time for Christmas.
Will Mills, community volunteering co-ordinator, said the job of befrienders was more important than ever at this time of year.
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'Christmas is a time for families and for company, and many of our residents are elderly,' he said.
'Their families may have moved away or not be able to visit them as often as they would like.
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'Loneliness is not season-specific but the situation is more sad as it comes up to Christmas.
'When you see people celebrating, the decorations up and trees in the windows, it can be a very lonely time.'
Even for those who can spend the holidays with their families, the long winter months either side can be a time of intense loneliness for many of Voluntary Norfolk's clients.
Wet or icy pavements and slippery leaves can make venturing outdoors treacherous, leaving many stranded and reliant on home visits for any company.
'It's the regular company that matters,' said Mr Mills. 'Just knowing that someone is coming to see you, and that they'll be back next week.'
One person who has already felt the benefit of a community befriender is 86-year-old Margaret, who lives alone in a secluded home on the outskirts of Norwich.
When she was discharged from hospital after a bout of pneumonia and unable to easily leave the house alone, she quickly found herself becoming isolated.
'I've always been a sociable person who enjoyed being in company,' she said.
'But when I came out of hospital I got very lonely, and I got very low in spirits.'
Her two sons and five grandchildren visit her when they can, 'but they have their own lives'.
'I lost my confidence in going out. If I go out now I have to have someone take me, and I daren't go out on the bus on my own.
'I used to be a confident lady but all of that left me, and I have to rely on people coming to me.'
Since being paired with Sarah, her befriender, Margaret knows she has a regular visitor every week with whom she can enjoy a simple cup of coffee and a chat.
She said the service was a valuable lifeline for people who may otherwise lack social company during the bleak winter months.
'I sincerely think it's a very good idea,' she said. 'I hope people will accept the help from the befrienders coming to their home.
'It's something that I can look forward to each week.'