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01 Dec 2023

More than 2 million older people wish they had someone to spend time with at Christmas

Age UK

New statistics from Age UK show just how difficult and lonely this Christmas will be for older people in the UK:

  • 2.3 million older people wish they had someone to spend time with at Christmas, and 1.6 million find Christmas Day to be the hardest day of the year

  • Age UK has launched a new campaign, the hardest day of the year, and is asking the public to donate and help those who have no one else

Age UK has released new research as part of its Christmas campaign, the hardest day of the year, to help highlight just how lonely and isolating everyday life is for millions of older people across the UK, especially during the festive period. The statistics show that an overwhelming 2.3 million older people (nearly a fifth) wish they had someone to spend time with at Christmas, and 1.6 million older people find Christmas Day to be the hardest day of the year.

The campaign, which is supported by Age UK’s ambassadors Dame Helen Mirren, Dame Judi Dench and Dame Joanna Lumley*, is raising awareness of how distressing loneliness can be for so many older people. The Charity is urging the public to donate to the campaign if they can and support Age UK’s friendship and advice services, which will be a lifeline to so many this Christmas.

Age UK’s new research found that 1.3 million older people will feel lonely this Christmas and, when asked what makes it a difficult time, more than 4.2 million older people (a third) said Christmas brings up memories of a loved one who has passed away. With Christmas typically being a period of joy when families and friends come together, having company and human connection during this time can be really important, but unfortunately this is something a huge number of older people are missing out on. 

Financial worries are also adding to feelings of loneliness and isolation around Christmas this year - the ever-increasing bills many older people are facing mean that large numbers are sacrificing social expenses. Over one million people aged over 65 say the cost of living crisis is going to isolate them this Christmas more than ever before, and 1.3 million say it’s a hard time of year for them as it’s too expensive to celebrate.

Whether people celebrate Christmas itself or not, the festive period can magnify any feelings of how alone they are, as routine services tend to wind down and shops close or shut earlier. Nearly three quarters of a million (748,000) older people say Christmas is a hard time of year as it feels isolating with shops and services being closed, and nearly 1.4 million older people feel more isolated at Christmas than any other time of year.

Feeling isolated and cut off is something that many of us can relate to particularly after lockdowns during the pandemic, and large numbers empathise with these feelings when thinking about getting older. Around 8.5 million people aged 18-35 said they’d feel forgotten if they were to spend Christmas alone as an older person, with nearly 5.7 million people aged 18-35 saying the idea makes them dread getting older.

Ted is 88 and first began to experience loneliness when his wife of 67 years developed dementia. He took on the role of being her carer and found the experience isolating. His wife was then moved into a care home and sadly passed away 18 months ago. A friend suggested Ted contact Age UK, and he now has a weekly phone call with his Age UK Telephone Friendship Service befriender, Lisa.

Ted says: “It broke my heart when Jess had to go into a care home. I used to walk from room to room not knowing what to do with myself. It was hard.

“When Jess went, it was so lonely. She was my life. We did everything together. I miss being able to go in and give her a little cuddle and a kiss.

"The hardest part is being shut in on your own. It’s harder in the winter because winter is depressing. Bank holidays are always hard because lots of shops shut early and it seems a different atmosphere to a normal day.”

He no longer decorates his tree for Christmas and says: “Now I’m on my own, I don’t bother anymore.”

“Age UK is so important. If I’ve got a problem, I know I can phone them up and they will be there for me. I look forward to the call with Lisa every week. If I’m feeling down, she takes me out of myself. I organise my dinner around it so we can have a good chat. She’s as good as gold. It’s another lifeline really. It’s something to look forward to and another person to talk to.”

To support Age UK and older people like Ted this Christmas, please donate by visiting: www.ageuk.org.uk/christmasappeal

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