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.
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