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More than 2 million older people wish they had someone to spend time with at Christmas

By: Age UK
Published on 01 December 2023 12:01 AM

New statistics from Age UK show just how difficult and lonely this Christmas will be for older people in the UK:

  • 2.3 million older people wish they had someone to spend time with at Christmas, and 1.6 million find Christmas Day to be the hardest day of the year
  • Age UK has launched a new campaign, the hardest day of the year, and is asking the public to donate and help those who have no one else

Age UK has released new research as part of its Christmas campaign, the hardest day of the year, to help highlight just how lonely and isolating everyday life is for millions of older people across the UK, especially during the festive period. The statistics show that an overwhelming 2.3 million older people (nearly a fifth) wish they had someone to spend time with at Christmas[i], and 1.6 million older people find Christmas Day to be the hardest day of the year[ii].

The campaign, which is supported by Age UK’s ambassadors Dame Helen Mirren, Dame Judi Dench and Dame Joanna Lumley*, is raising awareness of how distressing loneliness can be for so many older people. The Charity is urging the public to donate to the campaign if they can and support Age UK’s friendship and advice services, which will be a lifeline to so many this Christmas.

Age UK’s new research found that 1.3 million older people will feel lonely this Christmas[iii] and, when asked what makes it a difficult time, more than 4.2 million older people (a third) said Christmas brings up memories of a loved one who has passed away[iv]. With Christmas typically being a period of joy when families and friends come together, having company and human connection during this time can be really important, but unfortunately this is something a huge number of older people are missing out on. 

Financial worries are also adding to feelings of loneliness and isolation around Christmas this year - the ever-increasing bills many older people are facing mean that large numbers are sacrificing social expenses. Over one million people aged over 65 say the cost of living crisis is going to isolate them this Christmas more than ever before[v], and 1.3 million say it’s a hard time of year for them as it’s too expensive to celebrate[vi].

Whether people celebrate Christmas itself or not, the festive period can magnify any feelings of how alone they are, as routine services tend to wind down and shops close or shut earlier. Nearly three quarters of a million (748,000) older people say Christmas is a hard time of year as it feels isolating with shops and services being closed[vii], and nearly 1.4 million older people feel more isolated at Christmas than any other time of year[viii].

Feeling isolated and cut off is something that many of us can relate to particularly after lockdowns during the pandemic, and large numbers empathise with these feelings when thinking about getting older. Around 8.5 million people aged 18-35 said they’d feel forgotten if they were to spend Christmas alone as an older person[ix], with nearly 5.7 million people aged 18-35 saying the idea makes them dread getting older[x].

Ted is 88 and first began to experience loneliness when his wife of 67 years developed dementia. He took on the role of being her carer and found the experience isolating. His wife was then moved into a care home and sadly passed away 18 months ago. A friend suggested Ted contact Age UK, and he now has a weekly phone call with his Age UK Telephone Friendship Service befriender, Lisa.

Ted says: “It broke my heart when Jess had to go into a care home. I used to walk from room to room not knowing what to do with myself. It was hard.

“When Jess went, it was so lonely. She was my life. We did everything together. I miss being able to go in and give her a little cuddle and a kiss.

"The hardest part is being shut in on your own. It’s harder in the winter because winter is depressing. Bank holidays are always hard because lots of shops shut early and it seems a different atmosphere to a normal day.”

He no longer decorates his tree for Christmas and says: “Now I’m on my own, I don’t bother anymore.”

“Age UK is so important. If I’ve got a problem, I know I can phone them up and they will be there for me. I look forward to the call with Lisa every week. If I’m feeling down, she takes me out of myself. I organise my dinner around it so we can have a good chat. She’s as good as gold. It’s another lifeline really. It’s something to look forward to and another person to talk to.”

To support Age UK and older people like Ted this Christmas, please donate by visiting:


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Last updated: Feb 05 2024

Notes to editors:

Age UK is a national charity that works with a network of partners, including Age Scotland, Age Cymru, Age NI and local Age UKs across England, to help everyone make the most of later life, whatever their circumstances.

In the UK, the Charity helps more than seven million older people each year by providing advice and support.  It also researches and campaigns on the issues that matter most to older people. Its work focuses on ensuring that older people: have enough money; enjoy life and feel well; receive high quality health and care; are comfortable, safe and secure at home; and feel valued and able to participate.

Age UK’s subsidiary charity, Age International, supports older people globally in over 30 developing countries by funding programmes such as vital emergency relief and healthcare and campaigning to raise awareness and change policies.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and registered company number 6825798). Charitable services are provided through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity’s Community Interest Company (CiC) (registered company number 1102972) which donates its 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 

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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).

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