With Christmas approaching, it’s worth remembering that for some people this is a time of loneliness more than celebration.
Those who are widowed, or living miles from their children and extended family or old friends, may prefer to remember Christmas past as a happier time.
Television presenter Dame Esther Rantzen admits that, like many people, she finds parts of Christmas tough: “You have so many happy memories of sharing the day with people you love,” says Dame Esther, now 76.
In 2012 Dame Esther launched Silver Line, a helpline for older people so they have somebody to talk to and she is now working with Churchill Retirement Living to raise awareness of loneliness.
ABOVE: Dame Esther opening Churchill’s 100th development in Essex
Churchill’s chairman and CEO, Spencer McCarthy, says research the company commissioned earlier this year showed that 55 per cent of over-60s still believe there is a stigma attached to admitting to being lonely.
“One in four said they personally felt too ashamed to admit to others that they feel lonely and many have hidden illness or feel they are a burden to others, or go for days or even months without seeing family or friends.”
Phoning family or friends for a chat, or contacting Silver Line any time of the day or night for free (0800 470 8090), is a good way to start breaking down loneliness, but joining clubs or groups will help in the long term.
You can find out how to join in by looking at community notice boards in places like supermarkets or libraries, but moving into a purpose-built retirement complex is a short cut to improving your social life as well as downsizing to a more manageable property.
“We hold a number of different events at our lodges all across the country, enabling our owners to take part in a ready-made social life if they wish,” says McCarthy.
“Non-owners can also come along to some of these events, giving them the opportunity to get together and meet new people, raise awareness of loneliness and even raise money for charities.”