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Almost one in four older people say they expect this to be one of their hardest Christmases yet, as the cost of living crisis takes its toll

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  • Money worries mean millions will be cutting back on social activities, increasing the risk of loneliness – but a friendly phone call or a visit from a friend, relative or neighbour can make a big difference
  • Age UK calls on the public to donate to the Charity so it can help all those with no one to turn to

Following the launch of Age UK’s Christmas campaign, the Charity has released new research which shows that this Christmas will be one of the hardest yet for almost 3 million (2.9 million) older people, with almost as many (2.7 million) saying they worry they’ll have to reduce their social activities because of the cost of living crisis. This is why Age UK is calling for urgent donations this Christmas to support its services, including its Telephone Friendship Service and Advice Line, so that they can continue to be there for everyone who needs them.

As we get closer to winter and costs continue to rise, times are going to get even tougher for the older population. Although the Government plans to reinstate the triple lock and uprate benefits in line with inflation, this will not come into force until April 2023 so many older people are now facing big challenges to get through the winter. Age UK’s new research shows how frightened many older people are about surviving the next few months, with significant numbers anticipating a more solitary and lonely Christmas than usual this year, because of a lack of money. The Charity’s new figures show that 1.3 million older people are expecting to feel lonely this Christmas, but loneliness is also a major issue among our older population all year round: for example, half (49%) say they rely on television and radio for company, which is why Age UK is encouraging everyone to extend the hand of friendship to older people over the festive season.

On the brighter side, Age UK’s research also found that 5 million older people say a phone call from a friend or loved one would help them this Christmas time, and nearly the same proportion (4.9 million) said someone coming to visit them, or being visited by a friend or loved one, would help them. The Charity is encouraging everyone to check in with an older person this festive period, whether that’s over the phone, popping in for a cup of tea, or even offering to lend a hand by running some errands.

Age UK’s Christmas campaign raises funds for its Telephone Friendship Service, which offers regular friendly chats on the phone by matching older people with a volunteer telephone friend they can count on. Terry, who turns 99 on Christmas Eve, joined Age UK’s Telephone Friendship Service in 2020. She has sadly suffered the loss of both her husband and son. As Terry was beginning to learn to live with these losses, lockdown arrived, which meant she was unable to see her family. It was during this period that Terry suffered a heart attack and falls that resulted in a head injury and a broken hip.

Terry said: “It was after I lost my son and my husband that I started to feel deserted. A lot of things seemed to happen at one time, and I didn’t want to get up or do anything, but I had to make myself. I lost touch with people. I don’t like thinking about that time because it was awful. You don’t get over it – you must learn to live with it. I didn’t think I was going to recover; I didn’t have the energy or couldn’t be bothered to do anything and found that frightening.

“I’ve got used to it now, it was awful at first though. It was bad enough when the children left home. You don’t have a choice, you either give in or you don’t.

“The Age UK telephone calls are something to look forward to, when you haven’t done anything all day and you know someone’s going to phone, it’s nice. You know you have a contact somewhere – I’m not the only one in the world, there’s somebody else out there. It’s as simple as that, it’s a lifeline!

“My telephone friend Katherine is a light in the wilderness. She’s bright, nice to talk to, I enjoy her company. It’s a joy to know her. It’s good, we get on very well together.”

To support Age UK and older people like Terry this Christmas, please visit: www.ageuk.org.uk/christmasappeal

As well as supporting its Telephone Friendship Service, the Christmas campaign also raises funds for Age UK’s Advice Line, which is open every day of the year, including Christmas Day, and provides expert advice and vital information. In the Charity’s new research, nearly 2 million (1.9 million) older people said financial advice, or extra financial support, would help them this Christmas time, and Age UK’s Advice Line can help older people find out if they may qualify for financial support, and help them to put in a claim if they do. Successfully claiming Pension Credit, for example, not only provides much needed income for those struggling with money worries, it also opens the door to other forms of support too, such as help with council tax and dental bills.

Carol, who is in her 70s, contacted the Age UK Advice Line when her husband was unwell and she needed help claiming attendance allowance – a benefit for those of state pension age who have care needs. Benefits such as this are a lifeline for older people, particularly at the moment given how tough things are financially.

Carol said:

“Age UK was fantastic at helping to get the attendance allowance sorted for me, especially when my initial claim was turned down. A lot of older people might not want to apply for any sort of help financially, because they feel that it’s degrading. But if it’s through Age UK then it feels possible. That’s the important thing – Age UK is for us.

“Then after my husband died, I didn’t even realise that I was struggling with grief, but I went back to Age UK again and explained how I was feeling and they referred me to a bereavement charity. They know how to help and they sort it out for you.”

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said:

“After all the fear and anxiety of the pandemic, many of us had been looking forward to a jollier, more sociable Christmas this year – but sadly it seems that the cost of living crisis has put paid to that for millions of older people, because they simply can’t afford it. It’s sad that almost one in four of our older population expect to cut back on their social activities this Christmas in order to save money, and I fear that there will be many others whose loved ones won’t have the money to travel to see them, if they live some distance away.

“Unfortunately, we know that even in the best of years Christmas can be a lonely time for significant numbers of older people, especially if they live alone and have no friends or family nearby. This year though, it looks like many more will experience a lonely Christmas time, and a deeply worrying one too if they are struggling to make ends meet. I hate to think of how many older people will be stuck at home over the holidays, quite possibly cold as well as alone, with nothing to look forward to and feeling a desperate lack of both comfort and companionship.

“That’s why Age UK is calling on the public to be a good friend to the older people in their lives, and to donate to our Charity so we can support those who are alone and with no one to turn to. Throughout the Christmas period Age UK will be providing emotional and practical assistance to older people who badly need it, but in these difficult times demand is understandably high and rising and we can’t respond to everyone who wants our help without the generosity of the public, so please do give what you can.”

Dame Judi Dench, Age UK supporter, said:

“Loneliness is an awful thing to experience, and I think it’s fair to say that a lot of us, myself included, have had a taster of what it’s like in recent years.

“While most of us have been able to pick up where we left off and rebuild our connections, many are not able to do that – because loneliness and isolation are an everyday existence for so many older people. While many of us are incredibly lucky to have family, friends and neighbours who check in on us, call us, make us laugh and so much more, not everybody has somebody. And that’s heart-breaking.

“Having somebody to talk to can change everything, it can change a person’s life. Age UK can do this, they are there at the end of the phone for the older people who need them, but we must support them so they can carry on being there – donate today at www.ageuk.org.uk/christmasappeal.”

Age UK also urgently needs more Telephone Friendship Service volunteers, so for anyone interested in becoming a telephone friend and helping an older person please visit: www.ageuk.org.uk/friend

Anyone who needs support, or who is worried about an older relative or friend, or wants to find out more about Age UK’s friendship services, can get in touch by calling Age UK Advice free of charge on 0800 169 6565 (8am-7pm), or visit www.ageuk.org.uk. Any older person looking for a cheerful chat can call the Charity’s The Silver Line Helpline, day or night, on 0800 4 70 80 90.

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