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Christmas is the loneliest time of the year for over 1.5 million older people, with those who have lost a loved one struggling the most

Published on 03 December 2019 12:01 AM

A new survey for Age UK's No one should have no one to turn to campaign finds that Christmas is the loneliest time of the year for over 1.5 million older people, with those who have been widowed feeling it the most.

Age UK's research found that more than three-quarters (77%) of over 65s agree that the first Christmas after losing someone you love is the hardest. With up to 170,000 older people soon to face their first Christmas without their spouse, the charity is calling on the public for support.

The research found that over 750,000 older widowed people often feel more lonely over Christmas than at any other time of the year, with over 200,000 older widows and widowers not looking forward to the festive season because they will be alone.

The campaign, No one should have no one to turn to, is shining a light on how tough this time of year can be for many older people, especially if they are on their own having lost their partner. As part of the campaign, the charity has released a new report, You are Not Alone, which looks in more detail at what we know about the impacts of bereavement and shares some of the stories of those who have reached out to the charity following a painful loss.

According to the charity's survey, more than three million older people in the UK aren't looking forward to Christmas this year. Over 700,000 (23%) say it brings back too many memories of people who have passed away and of happier times.

Inspired by the people who need Age UK for support, powerful images have been created for the campaign to illustrate the thoughts and emotions felt by many when going through challenging experiences such as bereavement. As well as raising awareness of these problems and encouraging people to support the older people around them, No one should have no one to turn to is asking the public to donate to the charity, so it can continue to be there for everyone who needs them, like Colin, who came to Age UK for help after losing his wife.

Colin, 78, who features in the campaign images, says: "Nothing can prepare you for losing the love of your life. That first Christmas on my own was a particularly difficult time. Everyone else seemed to be enjoying the festivities, but it made me feel even more alone. It was Age UK that became my lifeline. When I was at my lowest point, Age UK helped me to get the guidance I desperately needed to face the many challenges of suddenly being alone. Now I feel safe and secure and it's all thanks to Age UK and the public's kind donations."

Whilst most of us will sit down with family and friends to enjoy an annual Christmas dinner this won't be the case for everyone. Almost 870,000 older people will be eating dinner alone on Christmas day this year, including around one in 10 people over 80.

Loneliness can be and is experienced at any point in life, but people aged 50 and over in England are five times more likely to be often lonely if they are widowed compared to those who have a partner.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, says: "Many of us look forward to Christmas in anticipation of having a lovely time with those we love, but unfortunately that's not how it is for some older people, especially if they are already feeling sad and alone.

Bereavement is a very common experience in later life but that doesn't make it any easier to cope with, and Christmas is a particular challenge if you are facing it on your own, with just your memories and perhaps the television or a pet for company, to see you through."

"Age UK wants to be there for everyone who finds themselves in this situation and for all those older people who are feeling lonely or troubled in the run up to Christmas for any other reason too. That's why we are urging everyone to get involved in the campaign and donate to help us be here for older people who literally have no one to turn to. Sadly, there are far too many of them in our society at the moment."

Joanna Lumley, Age UK Ambassador, says: "Even pulling a Christmas cracker needs someone at the other end...and think of all the other moments when a kind hand, a warm voice, and understanding presence would be of even greater benefit to a lonely troubled person.

"Loneliness is one of the most disabling and dispiriting situations that thousands must face this and every year. No one should have no one to turn to, so be an angel and reach out to someone you don't even know by donating to Age UK and giving the best Christmas present ever."

Money raised from No one should have no one to turn to will help to fund essential services, such as the Age UK Advice Line, which gives clear, practical guidance that helps makes sense of complicated situations and helps people access the support they need to get back on their feet, for example following bereavement. The advice line is free to call and open every day of the year – including Christmas day.

Age UK and local Age UKs across the country work to combat loneliness through a range of services and activities, such as lunch clubs, exercise classes and advice and support when there's no one else to turn to.

Age UK is encouraging people to get behind its campaign and to donate to help ensure that the charity's essential services and support can continue to be there for older people and their families and friends. For more information on No one should have no one to turn to or to donate, visit www.ageuk.org.uk/noone

Read the full report: You are not alone

-- Ends --

Notes to editors:

A copy of Age UK's 'It Doesn't Add Up' campaign report can be found here

[i] Age UK. February 2022. Research briefing: Estimating the impact of the April 2022 energy price cap rise on older households in England. Age UK [Online]. Available at: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/globalassets/age-uk/documents/reports-and-publications/reports-and-briefings/safe-at-home/estimating-the-impact-of-the-april-2022-energy-price-cap-rise-on-older-households-in-england.pdf.

[ii] Age UK. May 2022. Research Briefing: Estimating the impact of rising prices on older households in the UK in 2022-23. Age UK [Online]. Available at https://www.ageuk.org.uk/globalassets/age-uk/documents/reports-and-publications/reports-and-briefings/safe-at-home/estimating-the-impact-of-rising-prices-on-older-households-in-the-uk-in-2022-23-may-2022.pdf.

[iii] Older households are defined as households with at least one person aged 60 or over.

[iv] ‘Over the next year’ refers to 2022/23.

[v] The snapshot survey was carried out online.

[vi] Those in receipt of Pension Credit, which can be backdated for three months and tops up the weekly income of a single pensioner to £182.60 or a pensioner couple to £278.70, (or higher in some circumstances) could also be entitled to the following:

  • A Cold Weather Payment of £25, paid automatically when the average temperature is 0°C or below over seven consecutive days
  • £140 off electricity bill thorough the Warm Home Discount Scheme, if eligible
  • A free TV licence (if also over-75)
  • Free NHS dental treatment and help towards the cost of glasses and travel to hospital
  • Help with Council Tax
  • Help with rent
  • Cheaper phone and home broadband deals
  • Reduced water bills
  • An extra amount of Pension Credit for some carers worth up to £38.85 a week.

Age UK

We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI and our local Age UK partners in England (together the Age UK Family). We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK believes that everyone should have the opportunity to make the most of later life, whatever their circumstances. We provide free information, advice and support to over six million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well-being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we"). Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).

For more information

Contact the Age UK Media team on 020 3033 1430 during office hours (Mon-Fri 08:30-17:30) or for out-of-hours media support please email media@ageuk.org.uk 

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Last updated: May 26 2022

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