Skip to content
Please donate

More than half of older people expect this to be their hardest Christmas

Published on 12 December 2022 12:00 AM

Following the launch of Age NI’s Christmas campaign, the charity has released new research which shows that this Christmas will be one of the hardest yet for Northern Ireland’s older people.

  • Cost of Living worries mean older people will be cutting back on social activities, increasing the risk of loneliness – but a friendly phone call or a visit can make a big difference
  • Age NI Advice Line has never been busier and charity asks the public to donate so it can help more older people with no one to turn to

Following the launch of Age NI’s Christmas campaign, the charity has released new research which shows that this Christmas will be one of the hardest yet for Northern Ireland’s older people.

The figures highlight two major pain-points: loneliness and the cost of living crisis, with these combining to make this Christmas a time for fear rather than good cheer.

52% of those surveyed say they are worried they’ll have to reduce their social activities, and a third say they won’t be able to invite people over due to the cost of heating and feeding others.

Unfortunately, even in the best of times, Christmas can be a lonely time for older people, especially if they live alone. 40% of those surveyed say the cost of living crisis is making them feel more alone. A third said they expect to feel more isolated this Christmas than any other year.

As costs continue to rise and temperatures drop, times are going to get even tougher for the older population. Approaching the festive period, a third say they can’t afford Christmas this year.

This is why Age NI is calling for urgent donations this Christmas to support its services, including its Advice Line and Check in and Chat friendship call service, so that they can continue to be there for everyone who needs them.

The charity’s new figures show that one in three older people are expecting to feel lonely this Christmas. However, loneliness is a major issue among the older population all year round: for example, 79% say they rely on television and radio for company, and 31% visit the supermarket just to be with others. This is why Age NI is encouraging everyone to extend the hand of friendship to older people over the festive season. 

On a more positive point of action for the whole community, Age NI’s research found that 26% of older people say a phone call from a friend or loved one would help them this Christmas time, and even more (33%) said someone coming to visit them would help them. Age NI is encouraging everyone to check in with an older person this festive period, whether that’s over the phone, popping in for a cup of tea, or offering to take them out.

When it comes to supporting older people with the cost of living, Age NI’s Advice Line service is busier than ever.

Brenda Kearns, head of the charity’s Advice and Advocacy service said, “Since the summer, the number of calls to our advice line has risen by twofold every month: I have never seen it as busy. People calling us are very worried, they’re anxious about how they cope with their set limited income, and how they’re going to make ends meet.”

82 year old John contacted the Age NI Advice line when he had been recently discharged from hospital. He was feeling very low and as he had extra care needs, he was very worried how he would afford to live on his pension.

Brenda Kearns explained, “By doing some financial checks with John, we were able to help him get extra benefits every week, which hugely changed his quality of life. Like many older people, John didn’t even know he was missing out on these entitlements. We want people to get in touch and see how we can help. It’s just wonderful to know you’re making a real difference to someone’s life: from how John was that first day, to how he is now, it’s just life-changing for him.”

John said, “The difference of having a few extra pounds every month meant that I could get out, I could meet up with people. I felt my health improve because of it, and my entire lifestyle changed. I’m feeling good now, because Brenda and Age NI looked after me. Age NI will help you in whatever way they can.”

To support Age NI and older people like John this Christmas, please visit:

Paschal McKeown, Charity Director at Age NI, said:

“While many of us are looking forward to a more normal Christmas this year after the last couple of years, it’s sad to see that the cost of living crisis is going to make this much more difficult for many older people.

“It is heartbreaking to see that more than half (55%) of those who responded to our survey said they expect this Christmas to be their hardest yet.

“Our survey results reveal the personal and emotional impact of the financial worries stemming from the cost of living crisis, and the added layers of anxiety and loneliness this will bring to the holiday period.

“When we asked in our survey what would help this Christmas, the top response was having enough money (43%), closely followed by a visit from friends, family or loved ones (33%), going out (31%) or a simple phone call (26%).

“That’s why Age NI is calling on the people of Northern Ireland to do whatever they can to include the older people in their lives in their festive plans, and to donate to our appeal so we can support those who are alone and with no one to turn to.

“Age NI will be continuing to provide emotional and practical assistance to older people who badly need it throughout the year. In these difficult times, our advice service is more in demand than ever before and we rely on the generosity of the public to help us reach older people who need our help, so please do give what you can.”

Age NI also urgently needs more volunteers for its Check in and Chat telephone friendship service, and other wellbeing services, so anyone interested in volunteering can check out current opportunities here:

Anyone who needs support, or who is worried about an older relative or friend, or wants to find out more about Age NI’s services, can get in touch by calling free of charge on 0808 808 7575 (Mon-Fri 9-5pm excluding bank holidays) or visit


Last updated: Jul 03 2023

Become part of our story

Sign up today

Back to top