Pain of solitude haunts elderly when Christmas Day arrives

Loneliness at Christmas 2015
Loneliness at Christmas 2015

This Christmas, over a million older people face the festive season alone, having not seen a friend, neighbour or relative for weeks.

In the North West, 12 per cent of people who spoke to Samaritans said ‘Christmas is a time when I feel depressed and sad’, and 13 per cent said ‘I feel lonely at Christmas’.

Some elderly won’t have any visitors over Christmas and the New Year, and the Age UK charity is urging people to think about how they could help prevent loneliness in their own communities this winter.

Linda Salazar, health and wellbeing coordinator for Age UK in Lancashire, says: “There are always older people who are socially isolated and sometimes those people may live in towns; they may live around people, but they don’t actually join in anything.

“Sometimes older people might be a bit nervous about going out and going to places on their own.

“Other times it’s because they live in rural areas, and transportation is an issue.”

Natasha Mellor, an Age UK personal advisor based in Chorley, adds: “There are a lot of pressures which people can face in the winter months, particularly social isolation, from little connection with family, friends or neighbours, and inability to go out if mobility is a problem.”

The charity is calling on members of the public to offer some company to those facing loneliness this Christmas.

David Ward, promotions manager for Age UK Lancashire, explains: “Christmas is a time when families come together, but for many elderly people who perhaps don’t have any family or friends they can visit, it can really be a difficult time of year.

“Loneliness affects people all year round but in the winter months some elderly people may not be able to get out as much due to bad weather conditions, so they may not see or speak to anyone for weeks.

“We would urge anyone who has elderly neighbours or relatives to check up on them and ensure they are ok, have food in the fridge and are comfortable in their homes. A small gesture really can go a long way.”

He added: “The new ‘Man on the Moon’ John Lewis advert, in partnership with Age UK, has really highlighted the issue of loneliness that we at the charity know all too well.

“It has been a really important campaign to highlight that loneliness is a real issue and can affect many elderly people.

“Age UK Lancashire is also supporting the charity’s ‘no one should have no one at Christmas’ campaign locally, trying to raise funds to enable us to set up befriending services and other important community initiatives to help elderly people stay integrated in their local communities.”