More than half a million older people in the UK expect to feel lonely this Christmas, according to heartbreaking new statistics from Age UK.
The charity found that 1.7 million older people in England can go for a month without meeting up with a friend, and that 300,000 over 65s have not even had a conversation with family or friends over the same period.
For half a million older people, Christmas isn’t something to look forward to because it brings back too many memories of people who have passed away, and happier times.
Of those who expect to feel lonely this Christmas, four in five (79% have not sought any help. And for half of those (52%), loneliness has become a ‘normal’ part of life.
[Read more: How to tell if you or a loved one is lonely]
Almost a quarter of a million (230,000) older people will be on their own at least one day between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, and say they have no choice, it’s just how it is.
With this in mind it’s not surprising that more than 530,000 people aged 65 and over aren’t looking forward to Christmas because for them it’s ‘just another day’.
Although loneliness is by no means an inevitable part of ageing, difficult life events that many experience as people get older, such as bereavement, serious illness or reduced mobility, can all be triggers for becoming more isolated and feeling lonelier.
Age UK has launched a new campaign called ‘No one should have no one to turn to’ which hopes to raise awareness of its Advice Line (0800 169 6565), a confidential phone service for older people, their families, friends and carers.
There are also other initiatives trying to help. The #OneMoreCard campaign is asking people to give an extra Christmas card to a neighbour who they think is lonely, to open up conversations and help them feel less isolated. Some towns and villages are also hosting community Christmas dinners for people who would otherwise be spending the day alone. Shipston is one of them.
“We can see from this latest research that so many older people accept loneliness as part of life, so my plea is to take action for yourself or an older relative or friend who you think might be feeling isolated,“Joanna Lumley, Age UK ambassador, said. “Call Age UK and find out what support might be available for you locally, or donate to Age UK and help them to support older people in need.”
Caroline Abrahams, Age UK charity director, said there is more awareness now of loneliness and as a result she thinks many families and friends make a real effort to be kind to older people, especially at this time of year.
“However, as our new research shows, sadly, some older people are still being left out in the cold and have no one at all to turn to for advice or support.”
Laura Alcock-Ferguson, CEO of Campaign to End Loneliness, said the results are sadly unsurprising: “Christmas can heighten feelings of isolation for older people and many are overlooked. Our research found that the majority of older people hide their feelings of loneliness for fear of being a burden to their families.
“All of us have an opportunity to tackle the loneliness of older people at Christmas. Pick up the phone to an older relative you won’t be seeing. Invite them for dinner. Spend time with them. A small effort makes a big difference”