More than 500,000 pensioners 'will be lonely at Christmas' with just the television for companyOne in six over-65s barely speaks to family, friends or neighbours once a week according to a new survey by Friends of the ElderlyThe survey reveals the depth of isolation affecting many whose well-being is at greater risk during the winter
01:28 GMT, 3 December 2012
01:29 GMT, 3 December 2012
Alone: More than 500,000 pensioners 'will be lonely at Christmas' (file picture)
More than half a million older people will be spending Christmas alone this year – with only the TV for company, say campaigners.
One in six is in touch with family, friends and neighbours barely once a week, while one in ten is in contact less than once a month.
Surveys reveal the depth of isolation affecting many over-65s, whose wellbeing is at greater risk during the winter.
Even in relatively mild winters, there are around 8,000 extra deaths for every one degree drop in average temperature.
Spiralling energy bills, the severe cold snap affecting much of the country and poor eating habits pose threats to their health, but charities also want people to make time to care for their emotional needs.
Richard Furze, chief executive of the Friends of the Elderly charity, said: ‘The effects of isolation on older people – including loneliness, depression, feelings of low self-worth, poor health and diet – can be devastating, with isolated individuals being less likely to obtain the services they need or seek help.
‘We understand that people are incredibly busy today, and especially at Christmas, but we urge people to get more involved with the older people around them – and not just at Christmas.’
Figures from surveys carried out by Friends of the Elderly and Age UK show over 500,000 older people will spend Christmas alone this year. Over half of older people say the TV is their main form of company, with many out of contact with friends and family.
Around one in ten say they feel trapped in their own home and unable to join in social or recreational activities.
One in 20 manages to get out of their home once a week or less.
Lonely: One in six elderly people won't be enjoying a family Christmas as they are in touch with relatives, friends and neighbours barely once a week (file picture)
Research shows people who live alone are more likely to be lonely, with charities warning 3.8million older people live alone and the figure is rising. Sixty per cent of women and nearly half of people aged 75 and over live alone.
By 2033 it is predicted the numbers over 65 living on their own will go up by as much as half.
Friends of the Elderly is asking people to go into local care homes to help decorate them in time for Christmas.
The charity is also setting up festive meals for isolated people in the country. Mr Furze said: ‘Small things such as simply checking in on an older neighbour, popping a card through their door or having a chat with an older person at the shops is enjoyable for both young and older people, only takes a moment and can make a real difference.’