We are showered with images of happy families and friends, but that’s not the reality for vast numbers of people for whom it can be a really difficult and lonely time. Estimates suggest that over 1 million people in the UK over 65 feel lonely some or all of the time. But loneliness can affect any of us; health issues, break-ups, bereavement or moving to a new area can exacerbate feelings of being alone.
Research suggests that loneliness and social isolation can be as harmful to health as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day. Social networks and friendships not only reduce risk of ill health, but can also help recovery when people do fall ill.
If you are spending this period on your own, due to choice or circumstance, it’s a good idea to have a think about what you would like to do with your time - whether it’s catching up on TV or heading out for a crisp winter walk.
If you were looking to meet others this holiday period, there are a few good websites to check out. There is Community Christmas, where you can pop in your postcode and search for events local to you. You may also find local groups to join or events to go to at meetup.com. You may also consider donating your time: Do-it.org has a list of lots of volunteering opportunities, or you could volunteer at Crisis at Christmas events helping homeless people across the country.
The Silver Line is also a fantastic resource for older people feeling lonely or isolated. Their free and confidential helpline is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
If you know of someone who may be feeling lonely, be there to support them as much as you can. It may be something as simple as giving them a phone call or sending them a card. You may also consider inviting them over, or dropping round to their place with a gift or to say hi.