One in 20 pensioners facing Christmas not talking to anyone, charity warns

Age UK
Age UK

Almost one in 20 pensioners are facing Christmas “stuck at home, cold and alone” without talking to anyone this year, Age UK has warned.

The cost of living crisis is already impacting older people who are already suffering from loneliness, with two in five now unable to eat out, go on trips and do physical activity because it is too expensive.

Last month, the charity released data showing that millions of older people are living a “soulless and solitary life”, with many unable to afford to look after their pets, go on day trips and eat out with friends.

Now separate research conducted by the charity, and shared with The Telegraph, has revealed that one in 21 (or 60,000) older people will not speak to anyone on Christmas Day this year. Asked: “How will you feel this Christmas?” a further 1.3 million older people say they will feel sad.

Furthermore, almost one in four older people say they expect this to be one of their hardest Christmases yet as the rising cost of living takes its toll meaning that social activities have become a luxury.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, warned that “many more people will experience a lonely Christmas” this year, “and a deeply worrying one too if they are struggling to make ends meet”.

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She added: “After all the fear and anxiety of the pandemic, many of us had been looking forward to a jollier, more sociable Christmas this year – but sadly it seems that the cost of living crisis has put paid to that for millions of older people because they simply can’t afford it.

“It’s sad that almost one in four of our older population expect to cut back on their social activities this Christmas in order to save money, and I fear that there will be many others whose loved ones won’t have the money to travel to see them if they live some distance away.

“Unfortunately, we know that even in the best of years Christmas can be a lonely time for significant numbers of older people, especially if they live alone and have no friends or family nearby.

“This year though, it looks like many more will experience a lonely Christmas time, and a deeply worrying one too if they are struggling to make ends meet.

“I hate to think of how many older people will be stuck at home over the holidays, quite possibly cold as well as alone, with nothing to look forward to and feeling a desperate lack of both comfort and companionship.”

She also reiterated calls for the public “to be a good friend to the older people in their lives” and to donate to the charity “so we can support those who are alone and with no one to turn to”.

Donations will go towards supporting the charity’s services, including its Telephone Friendship Service and Advice Line.

Age UK, which is one of The Telegraph’s partners for its Christmas charity appeal, also found that five million older people have said that a phone call from a friend or loved one would help them this Christmas time.

Furthermore, nearly the same proportion (4.9 million) said someone coming to visit them, or being visited by a friend or loved one would help them feel less lonely.

Terry, who turns 99 on Christmas Eve, joined Age UK’s Telephone Friendship Service in 2020 and has described it as “a lifeline”, and “a light in the wilderness”.

After her husband and son passed away, lockdown arrived and she suffered a heart attack and falls that resulted in a head injury and a broken hip.

Terry said: “It was after I lost my son and my husband that I started to feel deserted. A lot of things seemed to happen at one time, and I didn't want to get up or do anything, but I had to make myself. I lost touch with people.

“I don’t like thinking about that time because it was awful. You don't get over it - you must learn to live with it. I didn't think I was going to recover; I didn't have the energy or couldn’t be bothered to do anything and found that frightening.

“The Age UK telephone calls are something to look forward to when you haven’t done anything all day and you know someone’s going to phone, it's nice. You know you have a contact somewhere - I'm not the only one in the world, there’s somebody else out there. It’s as simple as that, it’s a lifeline!

“My telephone friend Katherine is a light in the wilderness. She’s bright, nice to talk to, I enjoy her company. It’s a joy to know her. It’s good, we get on very well together.”

Actress Dame Judi Dench, who is a supporter of Age UK, said: “Loneliness is an awful thing to experience, and I think it’s fair to say that a lot of us, myself included, have had a taste of what it’s like in recent years.

“While many of us are incredibly lucky to have family, friends and neighbours who check in on us, call us, make us laugh and so much more, not everybody has somebody. And that’s heartbreaking.”