New analysis by Age UK has found that 1.7 million older people in England can go for a month without meeting up with a friend, and that 300,000 over 65s have not even had a conversation with family or friends over the same period.
Research commissioned by the charity also found that half a million older people across the UK are expecting to feel lonely this Christmas, of whom 4 in 5 (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.
As part of the campaign a powerful new film, on air during December, highlights some of the challenges of later life which can be so much harder to bear if you are facing them alone. It shows how the Charity is there to help and features one of Age UK’s trained advisers, providing a calm, reassuring voice and expert support.
Age UK Ambassador Joanna Lumley OBE, said: “Sadly, the feelings of loneliness are too common in many older people’s lives and it’s really quite a worry. It can affect your mental and even physical health. These are things I’ve learnt from working with Age UK and the role I’ve played this year in Finding Your Feet, where I also realised the importance of having strong bonds and connections with people around you in your later years.
“We can see from this latest research that so many older people accept loneliness as part of life, so my plea is to take action for yourself or an older relative or friend who you think might be feeling isolated – call Age UK and find out what support might be available for you locally, or donate to Age UK and help them to support older people in need.”