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Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Older people face loneliness epidemic this Christmas

This news post is about 1 year old

The festive season can spell misery for older people who are alone

Age Scotland estimates that more than 70,000 older people aged over 65 have nobody to spend Christmas with, and over 5,000 won’t speak to anyone on Christmas Day.

Analysis based on new research conducted by Yonder for Age Scotland’s sister charity, Age UK, has found that over one in 10 over 65s in Scotland expect to feel lonely this Christmas. The charity estimates this to be the equivalent of 122,000 older people in Scotland.

While loneliness can be more acute over the winter months, particularly at Christmas, the charity believes the current cost of living crisis is making things even more difficult for older people, with analysis also revealing that over 150,000 older Scots (c. 15% of over 65s) can’t really afford Christmas this year.

The impact of loneliness and isolation can contribute to serious physical and mental health concerns among older people, increasing the risk of heart disease, dementia, strokes and premature death, as well as leading to depression. 

The charity is calling on everyone to reach out to older friends, relatives and neighbours, as almost 40% of over 65s say a call from a friend or loved one would help them feel less lonely this Christmas.

Age Scotland is aiming to tackle loneliness by working with groups and volunteers across the country through initiatives such as its Big Gift Appeal and Winter Warmer project, which will see cards, gifts and items to help people keep warm delivered to older people across Scotland.

Their Friendship Line team will also be working over the festive period, making friendship calls to older people who may be feeling isolated and spending the day on their own.

Age Scotland’s Interim Chief Executive, Michelle Supple, said:

“While many of us are looking forward to spending the festive season with family and friends, for so many older people Christmas will just be another day spent at home by themselves. It’s heart-breaking to think of thousands of over 65s in Scotland not speaking to anyone on Christmas Day, instead relying on TV or radio for company.

“With the cost of energy and other essentials much higher than in previous years, many will also be facing additional pressure in heating their homes to a comfortable level or making sure they are eating enough.

“A strong sense of community spirit helped many older people through lockdown periods, and we would urge everyone to continue looking out for older friends, relative and neighbours this Christmas too.

“Sending a card, popping by for a chat or a cup of tea, or picking up the phone to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while could make all the difference to an older person spending the festive period on their own. Money is tight for many, but reaching out doesn’t have to cost anything.

“Age Scotland’s free Friendship Line is also available on 0800 12 44 222. A call costs just £5 and demand for our vital service is increasing but, with the help of donations, we are determined to be there for older people who need us today, tomorrow and in the weeks and months to come."