For lots of us, Christmas Day is eagerly anticipated – a chance to celebrate with food, family, laughter and gifts. But, sadly, many people will find this Christmas a real struggle.
More than half a million older people told us they expect to feel lonely over Christmas this year. Many will also be dealing with challenges such as money worries, health issues or the pressures of caring for a loved one – struggles that don't stop just because it's Christmas.
The Age UK Advice Line is open on Christmas Day so that help and support is never more than a phone call away.
Alison is one of the people who'll be answering the phones, offering help and support to callers.
"I have worked the last two Christmases and will be in this Christmas Day too," says Alison, who is part of the team manning the phones at the Age UK Advice Line. "Personally, I love it."
The day begins as usual at 8am, when the lines open. As well as answering incoming calls, the team will take time to make a 5-minute friendship call to people who'll be spending Christmas Day on their own.
"This call is so precious to people whose only other interaction with anyone throughout Christmas Day would probably be watching the Queen's Speech," explains Alison.
Giving a treasured gift
The advice line remains open until 7pm, and over the next 11 hours the team will be there to answer a wide variety of calls.
"Some people are very lonely and just want to be able to chat to someone," says Alison. "The friendly voice we can offer is a lifeline.
"We also get calls from people who have just had an emergency, perhaps a hospital admittance. They're often grateful for someone to answer their questions and give them information at a time when other services are limited."
Being part of the advice line fills me with pride. In fact, it means so much to me that I have volunteered to work Christmas Day 2019 already.
The advice line team does plenty to keep their own Christmas spirits up. "We have an amazing team who all contribute to Christmas food and we all tuck in," says Alison. "Our fridge is currently well stocked!
"I know of two colleagues who are sharing a lift this Christmas Day for the early shift and will be bringing in breakfast to share."
Team members work shorter shifts than usual on Christmas Day, meaning they still get time at home with their own families.
"At my house, we open our presents in the morning and then have a meal in the evening," explains Alison. "So, for me, being in work during the afternoon just means I miss a small part of my 'family' time."
Planning for Christmases to come
The Age UK Advice Line answers hundreds of thousands of enquiries every year, offering expert advice and guidance whenever it’s needed most. It’s thanks to our generous supporters that this service is possible, something which Alison finds particularly inspiring.
“Being part of the advice line and the service we provide fills me with pride,” she says. “The charity is such an important voice for people in later life. In fact, it means so much to me that I have volunteered to work Christmas Day 2019 already.”
We're here to help this Christmas
The Age UK Advice Line will be open from 8am until 7pm on Christmas Day. Call free on 0800 678 1602.
Your support makes this service possible
Your generous donations mean Alison and her colleagues can answer calls from older people on Christmas Day and all year round. Please donate today to help us keep on being here when we're needed most.