Over a Million Older People Expect to be Lonely this Christmas

Research from Age UK shows a massive 1.4 million older people are expecting to feel lonely this Christmas, and worrying numbers are feeling depressed and anxious about the prospect of spending it alone.

However, the analysis also found that a phone call from a loved one is the best Christmas present many older people feel they can receive, so Age UK is encouraging everyone to make the effort to phone an older friend over the Christmas season, so they know they are not forgotten.

The Charity is also urgently appealing for people to donate to its Make Christmas a Little Brighter campaign, to help it meet an upsurge in demand for its telephone-based services, to support those that need it the most.

The Charity’s new survey shows that nearly a million older people don’t have anyone to celebrate the festive period with this year, and when it comes to spending Christmas alone this year, around 675,000 over-65s are feeling fed up about this, around 625,000 are feeling depressed, around 400,000 feel forgotten and around 250,000 feel anxious.

ONS statistics show that around two million (23%) people aged 70+ reported feeling lonely at least some of the time.

Optimistically, Age UK’s new research also highlighted that there are some simple ways we can all help make Christmas a little brighter for older people who struggle during this time. More than five million older people say the best present they could get this year would be a phone call from a loved one.

As part of the campaign, the Charity is also calling on everyone to come together this Christmas season and reach out to older relatives and friends, and other older people who live nearby.

There are plenty of simple and very practical things we can all do to help older people feel included and supported over the festive season, but this year especially Age UK is appealing to everyone to phone an older friend or relative at Christmas time, or pop round to say hello, with the Charity’s research making clear that these are the things that older people who are alone would most value.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “Our research shows that rather than being something to look forward to, Christmas is now looming into view as a potential ordeal for those older people who feel intensely lonely and alone. It’s not hard to see why: if you’ve no one to spend time or raise a glass with, it can be pretty miserable, “like being in permanent lockdown”, as one older person told us this year.

“Many older people will enjoy a wonderful, convivial Christmas with family and friends, but the numbers who won’t are worryingly high – well in excess of a million aged over 65, according to our analysis. That’s a lot of potential unhappiness spread across the land.

“The good news though is that for many older people in this position, a friendly phone call or visit turns out to be the best Christmas present of all: the gift of kindness and friendship, which costs nothing and is so easy to offer, yet so gratefully received.

“That’s why this year we are encouraging everyone to reach out to the older people around them with a phone call or visit, or an invitation for a cup of coffee or tea. These straightforward things make a big difference if you are a lonely older person and it’s the only chance you’ll have of a cheerful chat that day or, for some, that week. Simple things like these literally brighten up their day.

“This Christmas, like every Christmas, Age UK is determined that no one should have no one, but demand for our Telephone Friendship Services is at an all-time high – no surprise perhaps given the impact of the pandemic and what we’ve discovered about how many older people are feeling, from our research. We want to help everyone who asks us for telephone based friendship, information or advice, so please donate to our Make Christmas a Little Brighter campaign if you can. You’ll be making a big difference.”

Dame Helen Mirren, Age UK ambassador, said: “It’s heart breaking to hear that so many older people don’t have anyone to share Christmas with this year, especially after the past 18 months everyone’s had.  That’s why I’m supporting Age UK’s annual campaign to help Make Christmas a Little Brighter for older people.

“There are very simple ways we can all make a difference to those who struggle during this time of year.  A friendly phone call or a visit for a cup of tea with an older person in your life could really brighten their day and help them feel connected again.  But Age UK also needs your support to continue to run its vital services, providing comfort, reassurance and support to those older people who don’t have anyone to turn to.

“Please give generously and support the fantastic work of Age UK to help them be there for older people most in need.”