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A time for reflection and looking to future.

season During the festive season, in among all the fun and joviality, thoughts can also turn to the year that has passed as we all reflect on our own personal triumphs and tribulations.

2017 has been a year that will long be talked about, but sadly, often for the wrong reasons.

We have experienced terrorist attacks that claimed innocent lives, to dramatic world events including the inauguration of the 45th USA President and an escalation of tensions with North Korea.

We have also had a snap General Election that saw an arrogant Conservative Party lose its majority, an overconfident SNP lose seats in Scotland and a resurgent Labour Party delivering a positive message of hope and real change, making electoral progress.

Yet for most people their reflections are often closer to home as thoughts turn to friends and family.

We make toasts to those perhaps no longer with us, and toasts to the future with challenges and excitement ahead.

It is a time where we meet with those that we may have not seen in a while and those that we may not see again until next year.

It is a time when we talk, but just as importantly listen.

A time when, hopefully, we can put our phones down for five minutes and have actual conversations.

Sadly, it is already a time when many feel lonely. No-one should have to be alone at Christmas time, yet almost a million older people across the country will feel lonelier at this time than at any other point of the year, with more than 60,000 older people in Scotland spending Christmas Day alone.

According to Age Scotland around 80,000 say that TV is their only company over Christmas and New Year, with one in five keeping it on all day because "it's lovely to hear human voices".

Loneliness and isolation can strike anyone.

From poor health, bereavement, mobility issues, a lack of confidence or suffering of anxiety, there are many reasons why people will be alone during the festive season.

This can have a serious impact on long-term physical and mental health, including heart problems, strokes and dementia. Yet we can all do our little bit to reach out.

We can volunteer as a befriender or just simply pop around to visit a neighbour for a cup of tea or a biscuit.

It may only be half an hour, but to them it will be the highlight of their day.

And whilst you might be facing a hectic day racing around shops for the last few bits and pieces for under the tree or around the dinner table, that break just might be the best part of your day too.

As we head in to 2018, whilst being mindful of the world events taking place, we should be focusing on the change that we can make in Scotland, in Parliament and in our communities.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Stirling Observer (Stirling, Scotland)
Date:Dec 29, 2017
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