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Elderly isolated at Christmas amid fears of the reintroduction of further covid restrictions

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Because no one should have no one. Credit - AgeCymru

THE FEAR of the reintroduction of tighter Covid restrictions will hit the elderly the worst this Christmas a Welsh Charity warns.

Christmas plans could be ruined for the second year in a row due to concerns over the new Covid-19 variant – Omicron, and the reintroduction of tougher guidelines.

The Welsh Government are now reviewing the pandemic rules weekly instead of every three weeks, with an update planned for Friday, December 17.

They have urged people to take lateral flow tests before attending Christmas parties, visiting others, or going shopping. 

First Minister Mark Drakeford has said he does not expect to implement a full lockdown like last year, however he has not ruled out the possibility of tougher restrictions being put in place before the big day.

Last year, only two households were allowed to meet on Christmas Day after the plans to relax Covid rules over the Christmas period were cancelled with only a few hours notice.

While there is no official guidance telling people to cancel party plans, health officials at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board have asked people not to attend parties, after huge demand at A&E departments.

The elderly will be amongst those affected the most by tougher restrictions, a Welsh charity has said.

An estimated 87,000 older people will be spending their Christmas alone this year, according to research undertaken by Age Cymru.

With Christmas being a festive and jolly time, it is unfortunate that thousands of people are not looking forward to Christmas due to feeling lonely. 

29% of people who took part in the research stated that they had lost a loved one over the last 18 months. 

Half of the respondents agreed that the best present they could get this year would be a call from a loved one, with more than a third agreeing that somebody calling for a chat or popping round for a visit would make their Christmas brighter.

When publishing their findings, Age Cymru commented: “Of course, we’re all approaching this Christmas with a sense of uncertainty about how the Omicron variant will affect our plans and activities which will lead to many of us becoming extra cautious.

“However, we have to ensure that our more cautious approach does not cause older people to become even more isolated and lonely.  We can still phone our older relatives, friends, and neighbours for a chat, and post Christmas cards through the letter box.”

Age Cymru have set up a “Friendship Service” which pairs a lonely older person with a volunteer for a weekly phone call. 

Speaking to one of the volunteers, Margaret Davies, from Cardiff said: “I’m not looking forward to Christmas, I want it to come and go quickly. I have been invited to lunch by my daughter, but I am worried about going because of the latest variant of Covid 19. I cannot wait for January to come, where some normality will hopefully return. Sorry if I sound like a humbug, but that is how I feel.”

Barbara Williams, from Swansea, said: “I will spend Christmas day with my partner James and our little dog, as I don’t have many family left and one of Jim’s sons passed away this year so we won’t be seeing much of the family.”

The issue of loneliness has been discussed for many years, especially during the holiday periods. However the pandemic has intensified the need to ensure those without family are not isolated even further.

Throughout Wales, communities have support groups, events and schemes in place to offer those who feel isolated involved in the community, especially at Christmas.

Since 2012, Councillor Guy Woodham of Milford Haven, has hosted an annual Christmas Day lunch, ‘Christmas Together’. This gives the opportunity for roughly 100 people who would otherwise be alone for Christmas to get together and have dinner and spend time with others.

Christmas Together 2019. Credit – Christmas Together

Last year he was forced to cancel the event for the first time, due to the pandemic. This year, the event will go ahead. However, the number of attendees has been limited to 30. 

There are also special requirements for those hoping to attend. Everyone must be double-vaccinated, wear masks when not seated, and they must social distance where possible.

Cllr Guy Woodham said: “We are delighted that having undertaken a detailed Covid-19 risk assessment we have identified measures that we can put in place to hold Christmas Together this year in as safe an environment as possible for all those who attend. 

While the event will inevitably be different to previous years, we still hope to bring some festive cheer and companionship to those who would otherwise be on their own on Christmas Day, for some, the loneliest day of the year – something many more have experienced as a result of the on-going Covid pandemic.”

He added that he had been convinced to go ahead with the event by those who hoped to attend. 

“They would actually get in touch or, if I was out and about, would speak to me and say ‘please go ahead with it’ and tell me their individual stories – that was the real driver.

“It was realising from having those personal conversations that for some people, it was really important to try to do it.”

He said some who had attended in previous years had decided “despite being lonely they actually would feel safer just staying at home for Christmas”.

He is hoping new restrictions will not be introduced that force him to cancel: “It would be devastating if there was an announcement that we couldn’t gather on Christmas Day, but we would have to respect that.

“It would be devastating for me, for those involved, and especially those people who made it clear that they don’t want to be alone on Christmas Day for very valid personal reasons.

“It’s not going to be the same as it has been previously, but hopefully what we do provide will give people some enjoyment on the day, rather than fear and unhappiness of being lonely.”

Now in its ninth year, Christmas Together continues to be fully supported by volunteers and donations. It is a great example of local people, organisations and businesses working together for the benefit of the community.

It will be held at Pill Social Centre, Milford Haven, the day provides a fun, friendly and relaxed atmosphere, along with a three-course festive lunch and Christmas entertainment. 

The event is provided free of charge for all attendees which includes free transport for those who would otherwise be unable to attend.

If you would like additional information about Christmas Together, including requesting an application form to attend as a guest or volunteer please contact, Cllr Guy Woodham, by emailing christmastogether@hotmail.co.uk telephoning 07411 287 533 (please leave a voicemail message) or writing to him at 4, Coombs Drive, Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, SA73 2NZ

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Community

Community Centre thanked for opening toilets to the public

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A COMMUNITY centre is throwing open its toilet doors to enable the public to make use of them.

As a non-statutory service, Pembrokeshire County Council has been under pressure to reduce the budget for public toilets for several years.  Some communities have stepped forward and taken over the running of public toilets, whilst others have helped to meet ongoing costs.

Another way to protect, and even increase, provision is for community venues and businesses to make their toilets publicly accessible. This is where the trustees of Hubberston and Hakin Community Centre have stepped in.

Their toilets will be open to the wider community for a trial period during their normal centre opening hours. The toilets have been redecorated and refurbished recently and are now ready for use.

For those with mobility issues there is ramped access to the centre, and one of the toilets is fully accessible.

More details of the centre can be found on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/HHCYC/ or contact them on email h.h.ccbookings@gmail.com

The toilets will shortly appear on the map of public toilets on the Pembrokeshire County Council website (https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/map-data/public-toilets-map).

A Hubberston and Hakin Community Centre trustee said: “We had no hesitation in making these toilets available to anyone who needs to use them. 

“It is great to be able to provide a much-needed facility, particularly for those workers who are out and about every day in our community and need such facilities. It will also prove useful for those visiting the area such as walkers and cyclists.”

Cllr Rhys Sinnett, Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services, said: “I would like to thank Hubberston and Hakin Community Centre for stepping forward and providing this facility to their wider community. 

“They can clearly see the benefits that making their toilets publicly available can bring not only to the residents they serve but also those who are working in that area. I hope that other community and private settings will see the benefits of doing the same.”

If any community or private venue would like to make their toilets publicly available, please contact Katy Daly, Strategic Business Manager (katie.daly@pembrokeshire.gov.uk).

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Community

Local florist creates stunning tribute to Queen Elizabeth II

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GWENDA’S Flowers From Home have created a beautiful floral display as a tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II following her passing on September 8. 

Chris used four flowers from around the country in his display. Daffodils from Wales, red roses from England, Eryngium (similar to thistles from Scotland) and Molluccella, which is also known as ‘the bells-of-Ireland’.

Gwenda’s Flowers From Home create high quality arrangements and guarantee a personal touch with every bouquet. 

Chris, 39, named his business after his grandmother. Chris said she was a royalist and she loved the Queen. 

He feels as though this tribute is very fitting and is proud to make the display in his grandmother’s name. 

The display is currently located in Haverfordwest at the War Memorial. 

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Advertorial

Veteran opens Slimming World in Milford Haven

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ARMY Veteran, Rachel, has launched her own Slimming World group in Milford Haven after her own positive experiences. 

“I changed lives in the army and hope to continue changing lives for people in Milford Haven.”

Rachel was born and raised in Milford Haven. As a small child, she was “active and busy” and a real tomboy alongside her brothers. 

In 1998, she joined the Army at 16-years-old as a Combat Medical Technician. Following training, Rachel served in Germany, all over the UK, overseas in Cyprus, and was deployed to Oman, Kosovo, Bosnia and Poland before retiring from service in May 2021.

Her role as a combat medical technician meant she often had to deal with soldiers who had been injured in war zones. Rachel described dealing with the range of injuries as “life-changing”.

Rachel’s job not only consisted of helping soldiers physically recover; she also helped them with their mental well-being. 

She said she: “always pointed out the positives ahead of them for their lives and their families.

“The fulfilment I would get from seeing them recover and their family made whole again is so rewarding, I cannot put it into words.”

She has always been a strong, physically fit person. She enjoyed an active lifestyle and felt as though she “could always eat what she wanted.”

In 2017, she was posted to Harrogate. Rachel was 36 years old and had recently given birth to her third child, a daughter, after already having two sons aged 13 and 5. 

She says she was almost two stone overweight even before her pregnancy. 

Rachel said: “So here I was with four stone to lose. I had lost all confidence and was at a loss.

“I was at a GP surgery when I saw a poster for Slimming World. I was there for my daughter’s first vaccinations and that’s when I decided to join my local Harrogate Slimming World group.”

Rachel said she was welcomed to the group with open arms. She described the members as being lovely, offering to make her a hot drink after being weighed or hold her baby while she got settled into the group. 

It was at this group that Rachel found her love for Food Optimising, which is Slimming World’s unique plan to lose weight and get healthy. 

She swapped takeaway meals for ‘fakeaways’ using recipes she learned from her group. 

After only a week, Rachel had lost 4 lbs and knew this new plan was one she could follow. 

Over the next 10 months, she enjoyed curries, chillis, chips loaded with a variety of toppings and cheese within her daily allowance, and she could still enjoy treats every now and then. 

By June 2018, she had hit her target and lost the whole four stone. She said she “felt amazing!”

Unfortunately, during lockdown, she became a single mum and was at an “all-time low”. She moved back to Pembrokeshire in December 2021 and quickly swapped healthy meals for quick and easy, high-fat processed meals.

Rachel said: “Being stuck in the house with three children during lockdown was hard. 

“As I was working from home with nowhere to go, I found myself mindlessly eating as I was only eating out of boredom. 

“I put almost two stone back on and I was devastated.”

In January 2022, she decided to get into shape again. She joined the local Slimming World group in Johnston. 

Rachel said she had two stone to lose and was determined to return to her target weight. 

She claims she was blown away by the consultant Kelly’s knowledge of the plan and her motivation. 

“She guided me back through the new member talk, reintroduced me to my love of Slimming World and allowed me to fall in love with the plan all over again!” Rachel added. 

“The warm atmosphere and the gentle reminder that the plan can be used for all the family reignited my passion.

“Since January 10, 2022, I have lost one stone and five pounds. I am only two-pounds away from my personal target.”

After talking about Slimming World and the freedom it allows Rachel to have, she joined Slimming World and trained to be a consultant. 

Thanks to her time in the Army, helping those with their physical and mental health, Rachel feels that she would be well suited to helping those achieve their goals. 

She commented: “The training is thorough and covers not only the plan but the psychology of wanting to lose weight. 

“It has totally changed my views on how I shop, cook and eat food, and I hope my drive and motivation will help others to do the same.”

To join Rachel’s Slimming World group, call Rachel on 07391 634033 or visit Milford United Football Club, Marble Hall Road, every Thursday at 5.30pm. 

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