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06 Dec 2017

(Still) Lonely This Christmas

This is a slightly amended version of an article first published in 2015.

Christmas is a time for being with family; it’s a time for sharing gifts with friends; a time for creating memories. For some, amongst whom are many of society’s most vulnerable and frail, their families will be absent this Christmas; there will be no friends to share this season with, and their memories of Christmases gone by will be all they have.


Loneliness does not discriminate. It is an emotion that has no sympathy for illness, for gender, for status or age. Though it is an emotion to which age makes us more susceptible. And loneliness is felt more keenly at Christmas when the shadow of everyday loneliness lengthens.
The facts on loneliness and isolation make uncomfortable reading. There are about 3.5 million people in the UK aged 65 and over who live alone. Many of the 65 and over age group report that they have contact with family, friends or neighbours less than once a week; that they feel trapped in their homes; that they have no help to go out; feel socially isolated, and have no one to turn to for help.

If you found those facts a little disturbing; prepare yourself for this: in 2010, in the UK, 500,000 people aged 65 and over spent Christmas day alone. That was in 2010. I have not looked for figures for other years; I suspect they will be little different from 2010. I suspect, when someone comes to do the calculation for more recent Christmases, the figures will be about the same.

You probably know someone who lives alone. It’s never easy to know how to help. The NHS Choices website – especially the page: Loneliness in the Elderly: How to Help – has some very good advice. The things we can do to help are often quite simple. This Christmas, the most important gift we give might be something as simple as saying hello to a neighbour.

Garry Costain is the Managing Director of Caremark Thanet, a domiciliary care provider with offices in Margate, Kent. Caremark Thanet provides home care services throughout the Isle of Thanet. Garry can be contacted on 01843 235910 or email: garry.costain@caremark.co.uk. You can also visit Caremark Thanet's website at www.caremark.co.uk/thanet.

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