US & Canada

Friends send 533 gift bags to 'lonely' US elderly

Residents at The Pines nursing home in Glen Falls receive their Christmas gift bags Image copyright Stacey Woods
Image caption Residents at The Pines nursing home in Glen Falls receive their Christmas gift bags

When a group of American friends decided they wanted to give something back to their community at Christmas, they found out a shocking statistic.

As many as 60% of nursing home residents don't receive regular visitors, according to research from the University of South Alabama.

Upset that so many elderly people would spend the festive season alone, the 28 women prepared 533 gift bags for residents of nursing homes near Glen Falls, New York.

The last of the presents was delivered on Friday in Fort Edward, New York, accompanied by girl scouts singing carols.

After a picture of 61 bags prepared by one woman, Stacey Woods, was posted on Reddit by her husband, many on the platform have been inspired to do the same.

"I was so overwhelmed by the huge response on Reddit - it's wonderful thing if other people do the same thing," Stacey explained.

Image copyright Stacey Woods
Image caption Stacey Woods, 38, and her family prepared 61 bags for nursing home residents

The women, who met working for a direct sales company that sells bags and other items, first began the initiative in 2017.

"We wanted to do something for our community, and in Glen Falls there is a scheme where you can adopt a local resident to support at Christmas."

"My friend was given the name of a senior and when she called the nursing home, they told her this statistic that 60% don't receive visitors," explained Stacey, who works as a business analyst as well as a direct sales consultant.

The group then decided to put together gifts for a wing of the care home, but when word spread they managed to collect enough bags for hundreds of elderly people.

This year they've collected 533 bags for five nursing homes between Vermont and Albany, New York.

Image copyright Stacey Woods
Image caption Girl scouts sang carols to residents at Fort Hudson nursing home on Friday when they received their bags

"It's just to try and bring them some cheer, because they are forgotten about. We all think about the kids, but so few people think about seniors - people without family or whose family have effectively abandoned them," Stacey added.

To fund the initiative, each member of the group sells bags to family and friends who would like to sponsor a nursing home resident.

The sales commission then pays for the gifts, although Stacey says she spent an additional $400 (£316) on presents.

The bags contain a fleece blanket, a pen with an activity book, lip balm and lotion - all items recommended by the care homes.

Stacey also asks everyone donating to write a personal message in a Christmas card for the person they're giving presents to.

Image copyright Stacey Woods
Image caption Stacey Woods said she was raised by her parents to do more for people around her

"They love the gifts, because they are things that they don't have access to, and they get excited to have people who come visit who they know have been thinking about them," Stacey explained.

In the UK about 7% of the population expects to spend Christmas alone this year, according to a poll carried out by ComRes for the BBC in December.

And earlier this year, a study from the Office of National Statistics found that young adults are more likely to feel lonely than older people.

One charity, Rainbow Cards Project, aims to reduce loneliness amongst LGBTQ people by sending Christmas cards to people whose families don't accept their sexuality or gender.

By Georgina Rannard, UGC & Social news