Lonely this Christmas: breaking festive isolation

Sad oap xmas crop

 80,000 people say they feel lonelier at Christmas time than at any other time of year

Graham Martin's photo

1st December 2017 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

More than 60,000 people aged over 65 will have no-one to spend Christmas Day with, according to new research by Age Scotland - a 50% increase over 2015 figures.

Around 80,000 say they feel lonelier at Christmas time than at any other time of year, with those who have been widowed most at risk.

While most of us are looking forward to the festive period, the survey shows that this can be the loneliest time of year for thousands of older people throughout Scotland.

Around 80,000 say that the TV is their only source of company over Christmas and New Year, with nearly one in five keeping it on all day because “it’s lovely to hear human voices”.

Age Scotland has launched its Christmas campaign, No one should have no one, to highlight the extent of loneliness and isolation in Scotland and encourage people to take action in their communities.

Almost one in 10 older people say they will spend half or more of their days alone over the Christmas period, without even a phone call or visit from a friend or relative.

One in 10 older Scots say they leave their home only once a week or less often, while 3% don’t usually leave their home in a month.

Although people can feel lonely at any age, older people are the most affected. Retirement, the death of a partner, or poor health can all lead them to feel socially isolated.

Mobility issues, a lack of confidence, and access to transport are some of the factors preventing people from taking part in their communities.

Loneliness can have a serious impact on both physical and mental health.

Left unaddressed, it can cause long-term misery and contribute to the development of serious medical conditions, such as heart problems and strokes, mental health issues and dementia.

Brian Sloan, chief executive of Age Scotland, said: “The epidemic of loneliness among older people is having a devastating impact on their health and wellbeing. While most of us are looking forward to spending the festive period with family or friends, it’s sobering to think that 60,000 older Scots will have only their television for company. Many more will go for days without a visit or even a phone call from family or friends.

“It’s heart-breaking that so many people lose their confidence and sense of self-worth as they get older. We hear from older people via our helpline who feel trapped in their homes and simply want to hear the sound of a human voice. We have regular callers who call to ask what day or time it is as their days are so repetitive, or say they sleep most of the day as there’s nothing else to do.

“It’s especially bad over the winter, as the cold weather and icy pavements make even more people afraid to leave their homes. Many of them feel depressed and anxious, but are embarrassed to let people know that they need some extra help.

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to a national strategy to tackle loneliness. This new research reminds us of the scale of the issue and the urgent need for organisations, health and social care services to work together to recognise and address social isolation.

“We can also all do our bit to reach out to older people in our communities, whether that’s volunteering as a befriender or simply popping round to check on a neighbour. Something as simple as taking time for a chat and a cuppa can make a huge difference to the well-being and happiness of a lonely older person.” 

Age Scotland’s Helpline provides free advice, support and community connecting services to older people and their families throughout Scotland. Calls are free on 0800 12 44 222.