More than half the older population are concerned they won’t see friends and family this Christmas, Age UK research reveals.
Almost 2m older people are expecting to feel lonely this Christmas, including almost a third of older widows and widowers, according to Age UK’s research for its No One Should Have No One campaign.
With a second national lockdown in England in place and the future uncertain, around 7.7m people aged 65 and over, more than half of the UK’s older population, are concerned that COVID-19 restrictions might mean that they cannot see family or friends this Christmas , potentially making this festive period the loneliest and scariest ever experienced for many older people.
Winter is always a tough time for older people, dark nights, short days and cold, often wet weather make it harder to get outside.
These challenges combined with pandemic restrictions mean that chance encounters, like catching up with neighbours on the street or friendly chats at the supermarket, are less likely right now, yet they can make a big difference to those who are almost always on their own, or feeling lonely.
Research carried out by Age UK has previously found that following months of staying inside, some older people have lost confidence in doing day-to-day activities they previously took in their stride, and are no longer taking pleasure from things they used to enjoy.
With the worst of winter still very much to come and COVID-19 continuing to represent a threat to older people, the charity is worried that many will find the next few weeks and months particularly tough to navigate, especially if they are on their own.
Marjorie, 98, lives on her own in an independent living apartment and doesn’t have any family or friends nearby. After beginning to feel lonely, Marjorie joined Age UK’s Telephone Friendship Service.
‘As you might imagine, at 98, it is lonely on your own. When you’ve been like me, being very independent throughout my life, the loneliness is like a nothingness.
‘I just miss my life. Thinking about the people I knew at school, I think I’m the only one around now. All my old friends and work colleagues in the WAF have been gone ages. People move away, and then they die.
‘During lockdown I didn’t get to see anyone, we couldn’t have visitors and I had to stay in my flat.
‘Because of the virus, I haven’t been out for over six months, I don’t get up to a lot. I’m going blind, and my hearing has been very bad, so I can’t watch the TV, I can’t read or write.
‘I used to like cooking and gardening, but I can’t do either of them. I enjoy listening to talking books from the library. I normally just go to bed and listen to them there because it’s more comfortable.
‘I always tell people I’d like to go to sleep on Christmas eve and not wake up until New Year’s Day and miss the whole thing. In previous years I’ve been invited out to various Christmas lunches, but this means I celebrate early and I’m alone on Christmas Day.
‘This year I’ll take Christmas as it comes, I don’t have any plans, but Christmas without friends is no fun.
“I really enjoy the Age UK telephone calls. It is something I look forward to because there is a friendship there – I get on with them very well and it does give me a lift, especially when you’re on your own.
‘It’s like having someone else in the room with me. I imagine us there together having a chat. It means a lot that Age UK are there for me when I need them.’
Age UK is raising urgently needed funds so it can continue to be there for anyone who needs help: now more than ever, no one should have no one. Find out more or donate at www.ageuk.org.uk/christmas-appeal.
Anyone who needs support, is worried about an older relative or friend or wants to find out more about Age UK’s Telephone Friendship Service can get in touch by calling Age UK Advice free of charge on 0800 169 6565 (8am-7pm) or visit www.ageuk.org.uk.
Any older person looking for a cheerful chat can call The Silver Line’s free helpline, day or night, on 0800 470 80 90.
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