Loneliness at Christmas

Loneliness at Christmastime

Who do you turn to when times get tough? Your partner, perhaps. Or your family and closest friends. The people you can rely on. The people who are always there for you. Imagine if you had no one to turn to. No one to ask when you just don’t know what to do next. No one to be there for you when you’re facing a crisis. No one to talk to when you’re feeling desperately lonely. Yet at Christmas the companionship and support of friends and family seems to mean even more than usual – which is why loneliness feels even harsher.

That’s why it’s so concerning to read new analysis from Age UK which has found that 198,000 older people in London can go for a month without meeting up with a friend. This is compounded by the fact that 19,000 over 65s across the capital have not even had a conversation with family or friends over the same period.

This isolation crisis is reflected across the UK too, as Age UK’s research also found that half a million older people across the UK are expecting to feel lonely this Christmas, of whom four in five (79%) have not sought any help for this. For half of those (52%), loneliness has become a ‘normal’ part of life. The study also found that for more than half a million older people, Christmas isn’t something to look forward to because it brings back too many memories of people who have passed away and happier times. In addition, more than 230,000 older people who will be on their own at least one day over the Christmas period (from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day) say they have no choice, it’s just how it is.  Against this context it is little surprise that more than 530,000 people aged 65 and over aren’t looking forward to Christmas because for them it’s ‘just another day.’

Although loneliness is by no means an inevitable part of ageing, difficult life events that many experience as people get older, such as bereavement, serious illness or reducing mobility, can all be triggers for becoming more isolated and feeling lonelier.

Age UKs across London are working hard 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 London supports this work by campaigning for older Londoners, working on their behalf, and championing their cause. Every single Age UK across London believe that no one should have no one to turn to.

Paul Goulden, CEO at Age UK London, said:

“There is far more awareness now of the problem of loneliness and as a result I think many families and friends make a real effort to be kind to older people, especially at this time of year. However, as our new research shows, sadly, some older people are still being left out in the cold and have no one at all to turn to for advice or support. So as well as doing your bit to be friendly to the older people you know please support us so we can be there for those who really are almost always on their own. No one should have to live like that in old age.”

Recently Age UK London teamed up with the company buyagift to launch an online video campaign to tackle loneliness at Christmas. The campaign saw celebrity influencers Samantha Faiers and Jamie Laing cooking Christmassy treats with a group of local older people to remind us all about the importance of community and companionship around Christmastime. The finished videos have been seen by over 100,000 people and explain how local Age UKs across London can provide advice and support to isolated older Londoners. All involved had a fantastic day together and you can see the finished result here. We would like to extend our thanks to everyone who got together to make the campaign possible.

Older people and their families or friends can find their local Age UK in London by clicking here.

George Harvey

George is Age UK London's Communications and Campaigns Officer.

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