Sunday, 6 December 2020

Britain is no country for 800,000 Home Alone Old Men this Coronavirus Christmas, locked in a Silent Epidemic of Loneliness

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Twice the number of people as normal are expecting to spend Christmas alone this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the issue is particularly acute among those old men and women aged 65 and over, with as many as 1.7 million of them saying they expected to be alone on Christmas Day. 

A new Opinium Poll for the Observer Newspaper has revealed that :

*  overall people expecting to spend Christmas on their own has gone up from 4% in a normal year to 8% this year

* among the over-64s, the figure has risen from 7% to 14% – or 1.7 million people

* just 23% of adults say they will spend Christmas with their parents this year, down from 35% in normal times

The survey results follow a growing body of research raising concerns about the impact of loneliness during the pandemic. Similar polling for the British Red Cross in the autumn found that among adults :

* 39% had not had a meaningful conversation with someone in the preceding fortnight

* 32% worried that should something happen to them, no one would notice

Zoe Abrams, the Executive Director of Communications and Advocacy at the charity, said the seasonal impact of loneliness on top of the pandemic “cannot be underestimated” and “Shorter daylight hours and a very different Christmas for many could compound feelings of isolation, especially for those who may have lost family members this year. Loneliness is a public health issue – it can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and dementia. We’d encourage civil society organisations to involve people dealing with loneliness in designing solutions. We’d also like all governments across the four nations to have a Winter Loneliness Plan.”

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said while digital technology would help many older people connect with family over Christmas, hundreds of thousands will be “totally on their own and won’t hear from or speak to anyone at all. As you move up the age range far fewer older people are online too, more than half from about the age of 75, making them more cut off still. With coronavirus still a very present threat it is more important than ever that we keep up the spirits of the older people in our lives by making the effort to stay in contact. A friendly phone call, a note through the door of a neighbour offering help with shopping, a letter or Christmas card to someone further away will all help beat back the intense feelings of loneliness.”

Ed Davey, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said : 

“This pandemic has created a silent epidemic of loneliness". 

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