Nearly a third of grandparents only see their grandchildren once a month - or even less frequently - according to a survey released today.
The study into loneliness in older people found that as well as 32% of over-65s only having monthly visits to see their grandchildren, the same percentage see their own children fortnightly or less.
A fifth (21%) of the 1,242 people surveyed by Age UK only see close friends every two weeks and one in five said they found it harder to speak about loneliness than other issues.
A separate study for charity YouthNet showed that loneliness crosses generations, with 19% of the 1,101 surveyed saying it is the thing they most fear about the future.
Michelle Mitchell, of Age UK, said: "We already know that loneliness affects over a third (34%) of people aged 65-plus in Great Britain.
"Modern day life means that more people live further away from loved ones, so seeing older relatives regularly can be increasingly challenging.
"By bringing older and younger people together in their local communities through a new digital service we hope to go some way in helping to reduce isolation and loneliness across the generations."
The two official Virgin London Marathon charities are joining forces to tackle isolation. They are calling for runners to raise money for a new service that will see young people volunteer to help isolated people learn how to use the internet, so they can stay in touch with people and find out about new hobbies.
Emma Thomas, CEO of YouthNet, said: "There is so much that young people can contribute to society and helping older people to benefit from online and connect with their families so they feel less isolated is a great example of this."
Age UK and YouthNet have 350 guaranteed London Marathon places for their team, Team Run for It.
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Geography Counts, So Stay Local
What you want is someone to hang with near where you live. Approach this scientifically. Having a friend who lives an hour's drive away will mean you won't see them as much as the person who lives closer. So think global, but stay local. That means your local coffee shop, the local branch of the public library, or the local college that offers evening courses.
Follow Your Interests
If you play tennis, join a club or take a few lessons at the community center. If you like to throw parties, volunteer to fundraising events for local charities Here's the one caveat about following your interests: Nobody ever met anyone while watching "Pop Idol" from the sofa!
Friends Come In Various Packages
Be open to the idea that it's OK to have friends who are older or younger. The fact that they are in different stages in life just means they bring a different perspective to the table. While a 14-year-old won't be interested in socializing with a toddler, that 10-year age gap dissipates when they get older. Why not say yes to the 30-somethings who invite you to join them for drinks after work? Invite them over for dinner with their families and get to know their kids. Their views on the world may not match yours precisely, but variety is the spice of life.
Travel With Strangers
If you are post 50 and uncoupled, you might find that traveling isn't as much fun. Call it the Noah's Ark theory, but in general, we like to go places paired up. There are services that will help you find a travel room-mate. Not only does this give you someone to talk to over dinner, it cuts down those single supplements that some tours and cruises charge. <a href="http://www.friendlyplanet.com/faqs/find-roommate.html" target="_hplink">Friendly Planet</a> runs one such pairing-up service. <a href="http://www.roadscholar.org/" target="_hplink">Road Scholar</a> offers many active adult adventure vacations here -- offers to find you a roommate if you want. Their programs and generally educationally based and draw a well-heeled and educated crowd. Cruise ships do a pretty good job of making sure solo travelers find people to hang out with; group dining arrangements go a long way toward conversational icebreaking.
Become A Joiner
Even if you've never been a joiner, now may be the time to get yourself out there. Got a new puppy or an old dog who needs some new tricks? Find a community dog-training class. If you like to cook, take a cooking class. You could even participate in the 5K run for charity, even if you walk the final three!
Keep your smart phone with you and ask for numbers. Sure it may feel a little awkward to say to someone you just met "Hey, I really enjoyed talking to you on this walk but the next one isn't for two months. Would you like to get together for a hike before that?" Worst they can say is No.
Keep Up With Old Friends
With Skype, it's easier than ever to have face-to-face visits. Don't assume your old friends are too busy to talk to you on the phone. Most cellphone plans include free long-distance calls and for those that don't, there's Skype. Invite friends who live a great distance to come and stay with you.Show them your city. Friendships are like gardens; it's often easier to tend to an existing one than grow a new one from seeds.