You may have seen a heartwarming story on BBC Breakfast this week, in which 78 year-old Terrence described how volunteering at Age UK Oldham helped to reconnect him with his local community – having spent the last 20 Christmases alone. The host Dan Walker followed his interview with Terrence by travelling to his home the next morning to surprise him with his very own Christmas tree and a performance of his favourite carol “Silent Night” by students from Oldham College. Terrence explained that he’s been alone since his mother died 20 years ago and that Christmas Day was “not a very good day” for many years. However, this year Terrence will be spending Christmas Day with his friend Nancy, who he visits most weeks through Age UK Oldham’s befriending programme.
Terrence’s story is a heartwarming tale and it was so wonderful to see how happy the BBC Breakfast team made him on Thursday morning. Unfortunately, Terrence’s story is the exception that proves a very worrying rule – far too many older people will spend Christmas alone this year.
A new survey for Age UK’s “No one should have no one to turn to” campaign has found that Christmas is the loneliest time of the year for over 95,000 older people in London, with those who have been widowed feeling it the most. More worryingly still, the research found that more than three-quarters (75%) of over 65s in the London agree that the first Christmas after losing someone you love is the hardest, and up to 13,000 older people in the capital are estimated to face their first Christmas without their spouse.
The picture across the UK is equally concerning, as the survey found that over 750,000 older widowed people often feel more lonely over Christmas than at any other time of the year; with over 200,000 older widows and widowers not looking forward to the festive season because they will be alone. Worse still, whilst most of us will sit down with family and friends to enjoy an annual Christmas Dinner, this won’t be the case for everyone. In London, almost 85,000 older people will be eating dinner alone on Christmas Day this year, and across the UK around one in 10 of over 80s will be dining alone.
Luckily the national Age UK’s campaign “No one should have no one to turn to”, is shining a light on how tough this time of year can be for many older people, especially if they are on their own having lost their partner. As part of the campaign, the Charity has released a new report, “You are not alone”, which looks in more detail at what we know about the impacts of bereavement and shares some of the stories of those who have reached out to the Charity following a painful loss.
As concerning as these statistics are, there is still hope for isolated older Londoners this Christmas – but we need your help! One of the best ways you can get involved this Christmas is to volunteer with your local Age UK in London. There are a whole host of ways to volunteer, from befriending like Terrence, to attending lunch clubs, or even helping out with a Christmas meal! You can find the contact details for your local Age UK here.
If you don’t have time to volunteer in the busy Christmas period, don’t worry! The national Age UK has just launched the “Help an Older Londoner” campaign, a fundraising drive to help local Age UKs across London to continue their work. From a weekly visit from a caring volunteer, to delivering Christmas dinner to the door, your donation will help Age UKs across London bring care and comfort back into an older person’s life. To get involved, please click here.
Because no one should have no one to turn to – especially at Christmas.