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Almost a million older people feel lonelier at Christmas with those who have been widowed most at risk

Author: Age UK
Published on 01 November 2017 12:00 AM

New research for Age UK shows that nearly a million (928,000) older people feel lonelier at Christmas time, two-fifths of whom have been widowed. [i]

Alongside the new findings published to launch Age UK's Christmas campaign, No one should have no one, the Charity has produced a short film entitled 'Just another day' which shines a light on the crushing, chronic loneliness which 1.2 million older people are living with in England.[ii]

Directed by the award winning and highly acclaimed Philippe Andre, 'Just another day' – which premieres on Saturday 2nd December – shows the everyday monotony of a lonely widower. For him, as for millions of older people in our country, each day is much like the last, and in the film we see that even Christmas is no exception. Sadly, this is the heart breaking reality for many older people in this country.

Nearly half of the older people surveyed for Age UK[iii] – equating to almost 5.7 million people aged-65 and over – feel their days can be repetitive, almost a quarter of whom (around 1.4 million older people) admitted that Christmas isn't a special day for them and just passes them by.[iv] Based on the survey, the Charity estimates that getting on towards a million (873,000) people aged 65 and over don't see or hear from someone for days on end over the festive period.[v] And at Christmas time, on days when older people do not see or hear from anyone, over half (55%) rely on the TV for companionship.[vi]

Through its No one should have no one campaign, Age UK is calling on people across the country to pledge their support and donate to help the Charity be there for older people and tackle the loneliness that is blighting too many lives. Age UK does this every day of the year through its vital services like Age UK Advice, open every day, including Christmas Day; and Call in Time, the Charity's telephone befriending service, which provides regular calls to isolated or lonely older people, in many cases this being the only conversation they will have all week.

Roy, an 85 year old widower experienced loneliness after his wife passed away, said: 'I spent every day for 55 years with my beautiful wife and getting used to life without her has been the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Not a day goes by when I don't miss her dearly.

'No one teaches you about loneliness and until it happens to you, you don't realise just how devastating loneliness is. I'm incredibly grateful for Age UK's befriending service and my local Age UK. I have a weekly phone call and visit from wonderful volunteers, and feel much more positive and confident now.

'Anybody who is feeling lonely and missing their loved ones this Christmas should sign up for this service – it's a lifeline.'

Every day Age UK hears from people who are experiencing devastating life events such as bereavement, which can give rise to overwhelming feelings of loneliness and loss. Left unaddressed this can cause long-term misery and contribute to the development of serious medical conditions, such as heart problems and strokes, mental health issues and dementia.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, says: 'Loneliness doesn't only affect older people over the Christmas period, but because most of us expect to spend this time of the year enjoying ourselves with family and friends it can make those who are unwillingly on their own feel all the more left out and miserable. For many lonely older people the festive season also brings back memories of happier times in years gone by, reminding them of partners and other close relatives and friends who are no longer around and who they sorely miss.

'Chronic loneliness is not only horrible to experience day in, day out, it can also have a devastating impact on an older person's mental and physical health. That's why at Age UK we are committed to being here year round for older people, to help tackle the loneliness that is blighting far too many later lives.

'There is something we can all do to make a positive difference to the older people around us. Having a friendly chat with an older person on the bus or in a shop, or offering to help an elderly neighbour with their shopping if the weather is bad, can do more good than most of us would ever guess, and at very little cost to ourselves. In fact I guarantee you'll feel better too as a result.'

Anyone who is experiencing feelings of loneliness or is worried about an older relative or friend can call Age UK Advice free of charge on 0800 169 6565, visit www.ageuk.org.uk/no-one or contact their local Age UK to see what services are available locally.

For more information on No one should have no one, including how to donate and get involved, people can go to www.ageuk.org.uk/no-one.

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Notes to editors

  • All figures, unless stated otherwise, are taken from Age UK/ Kantar TNS polling research which took place in November 2017. The polling was conducted face-to-face and with a UK-wide sample of 2,585 people aged 65+.
  • The film will premiere on Saturday 2nd December. If you would like to view the film please get in touch with the media team for access to a preview.
  • Age UK tackles loneliness through vital services and support like its national advice line, Age UK Advice – open 365 days a year from 8am-7pm and helping seven million older people a year – and Call in Time, the Charity's befriending service which provides a weekly phone call to a lonely older person, sometimes the only conversation an older person will have all week.
  • Age UK is proud to be part of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness which we hope will have a big impact on the millions of people grappling with feelings of loneliness on a daily basis across the UK.
  • Please contact the Age UK media team on 020 3033 1430/ 07071 243 243/ media@ageuk.org.uk for further information about the campaign, statistics, case study, or to arrange an interview.

[i]Approx. 928,000 people aged 65+ (8%) feel lonelier at Christmas time, with 41% of those (approx. 379,000) feeling that way because they are widowed. Kantar TNS polling for Age UK, Nov 2017 – sample of 2,585 people aged 65+ in the UK. Figures extrapolated by Age UK to national population using latest ONS Population Estimates.
[ii] Marmot, M., Oldfield, Z., Clemens, S., Blake, M., Phelps, A., Nazroo, J., Steptoe, A., Rogers, N., Banks, J., Oskala, A. (2016). English Longitudinal Study of Ageing: Waves 0-7, 1998-2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-5050-12. Figures extrapolated by Age UK to national population using latest ONS Population Estimates. Individuals experiencing "chronic loneliness" are those who are often/always lonely for at least two of the last three years and at least sometimes lonely in the other year of the three.
[iii] 48.1 per cent (approx. 5,686,000). Kantar TNS polling for Age UK, Nov 2017.
[iv] 24.3 per cent (approx. 1,380,000) – this increases to 27.3 per cent among those who have been widowed, divorced or separated. Kantar TNS polling for Age UK, Nov 2017.
[v] 7.4 per cent (approx. 873,000) of those aged 65+ don't see or hear from anyone for three days or more over Christmas.
[vi] 54.8 per cent (approx. 1,024,000) of those aged 65+ who don't see or hear from anyone for at least a day over Christmas rely on the TV for companionship. TNS polling for Age UK, Nov 2017.

Age UK

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).

 

Last updated: Dec 01 2017

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