450,000 older people will be alone this Christmas

Source : Sean O'Connor \ Age UK
Published on 12 November 2013 12:01 AM

450,000 older people will be alone this Christmas

New research commissioned by Age UK reveals 450,000 people aged 65 and over are facing Christmas alone this year, underlining the problem of isolation and loneliness among people in later life.

 

In addition 17% (480,000) said that Christmas brought back too many memories of those who had passed away and in total 26% (2.8 million) older people are not looking forward to Christmas this year.

Isolation and loneliness is a huge issue affecting the UK’s ageing population made even harder with cold winter conditions. The research also shows that almost 2 million people (18%) are worried about not being able to get out and about as much because of shorter, darker days and poor weather conditions.

Over 80s most vulnerable and at risk

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK, said: ‘As we head towards Christmas this is a chilling outlook for too many older people. What’s even more concerning is that the majority of older people facing Christmas alone are aged 80 or over, making them the most vulnerable and at risk at this time of year.

‘People’s social networks often shrink due to life-changing events such as retirement and bereavement which can increase the risk of feeling lonely, and we are extremely concerned that this coupled with on-going cuts to local authority budgets means that even more older people will feel lonely this winter.’

There is something that everyone can do to help fight this growing problem whether it’s helping to put an older person in contact with Age UK or popping in to check on an older neighbour or relative to help make the festive season something to look forward to.

Befriending service

Irene, 83, was supported by her local Age UK in Nottingham through its befriending scheme after missing her husband, who she lost 7 years ago. Her daughter referred her to the service and Irene now has a befriender, Keith, who began visiting her on a weekly basis in January this year.

Irene says that they are like ‘like 2 peas in a pod’ and she enjoys his visits. ‘If I needed anything Keith would be there for me – I still very feel very emotional about losing my husband. I have a lovely, supportive family but I still needed some company and Keith has helped me – we’ve had some laughs.

‘He is very caring person,’ she said. ‘He has even helped me to get online and to purchase an iPad that I can use on Christmas Day so I can speak to some of my family who live abroad using Skype.’

Since Keith’s visits began Irene’s confidence has soared and she has a busy life now, going out most days and seeing people regularly.

Older people can get in touch with their local Age UK to see how the charity can help through a range of services, such as befriending which might include home visits and telephone calls for people who are feeling lonely or isolated.

This vital support provides a link to the outside world and often acts as a gateway for other services and valuable support. Many local Age UKs also offer other social activities such as lunch clubs and day centre activities including exercise classes, coffee mornings, as well as volunteering opportunities.

If anyone is worried about an older person this winter call Age UK Advice on 0800 169 65 65 for expert advice on staying warm and keeping well. Lines are open from 8am to 7pm, 7 days a week.

Find out what Age UK are doing to keep older people warm and well in winter



 

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Age UK experts

  • We have a number of experts available for comment, including:

    Caroline Abrahams

    Caroline Abrahams

    Age UK Director of External Affairs Caroline Abrahams.

    Caroline Abrahams: Charity Director

    Caroline joined Age UK in 2012.

    A social scientist and barrister, Caroline has spent her career in the voluntary and public sectors, mostly on children and families’ issues. She has worked in a senior capacity at the children’s charity, Action For Children and at the Local Government Association. Caroline has also been a policy adviser to Ministers and Shadow Ministers, and a senior civil servant. A former chair of the End Child Poverty campaign, Caroline’s policy interests include integrated health and care, family policy, poverty and the role of the voluntary sector.

    Caroline oversees Age UK’s influencing work and her team covers research, public policy, health influencing, media, campaigns and engagement and public affairs. She is also the Charity's lead spokesperson.

    Caroline decided to work for Age UK because she could see that there was a lot to do to change policy and practice so older people are served well, and because she passionately believes that Age UK can make a big difference.

    Professor James Goodwin

    James Goodwin

    James GoodwinProfessor James Goodwin: Head of Research

    James is head of our research department in Age UK.

    His responsibilities include:

    • funding and commissioning a wide portfolio of research (including social and economic research, and research to improve the health and wellbeing of older people);
    • knowledge management and translation;
    • and all research partnerships, internal and external, including international.

    He has a Visiting Professorship in Ageing at Loughborough University.

    Jane Vass

    Jane Vass

    Jane Vass - Head of Public PolicyJane Vass - Head of Public Policy

    Jane Vass has been Head of Public Policy at Age UK since 2012, having joined Age UK’s predecessor, Age Concern England as Financial Services Policy Adviser in 2006. She was previously an independent consumer consultant specialising in financial services from the consumer viewpoint. In this capacity she undertook research such as reports for the National Consumer Council on equity release and on financial capability for the Securities and Investments Board. She also wrote the Daily Mail Tax Guide for 10 years. She was a member of the Financial Services Consumer Panel from 1999 to 2003, and from 1983 to 1993 she worked for Consumers’ Association.
    Jane was given an OBE for her services to financial services in the June 2015 Birthday Honours list.

    Jane Vass has been Head of Public Policy at Age UK since 2012, having joined Age UK’s predecessor, Age Concern England as Financial Services Policy Adviser in 2006.

    She was previously an independent consumer consultant specialising in financial services from the consumer viewpoint. In this capacity she undertook research such as reports for the National Consumer Council on equity release and on financial capability for the Securities and Investments Board.

    She also wrote the Daily Mail Tax Guide for 10 years. She was a member of the Financial Services Consumer Panel from 1999 to 2003, and from 1983 to 1993 she worked for Consumers’ Association.

    Jane was given an OBE for her services to financial services in the June 2015 Birthday Honours list.

Age UK later life factsheet

  • This factsheet, which is regularly updated, is the most up-to-date source of publicly-available, general information on people in later life in the UK.

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