Lonely This Christmas

This Christmas thousands of older people in Somerset could be facing the festive season alone.

New research from the ‘Campaign to End Loneliness’ estimates that around 1 million older people nationally, and 12,500 older people in Somerset, could be spending Christmas alone.

Being lonely seriously increases people’s risk of suffering mental and physical illness and research shows that lacking social connections can be as damaging to a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Cllr. Ann Bown, Chair of the Somerset Health and Wellbeing Board said: ‘With evidence showing that over a million older people nationally say they haven’t spoken to a friend, family member or neighbour in over a month we all have a role to play in helping to tackle loneliness in our local community.

‘Loneliness can affect any of us, whatever our age or personal circumstances but for some at Christmas time when families traditionally get together it can be particularly hard.  As Chair of the Somerset Health and Wellbeing Board I welcome the fact that loneliness has been identified as one of the Boards priority areas this year as Somerset has a rising older population who due to ill health, reduced physical activity and limited access to transport can often experience loneliness more than others’.

This Christmas if you are lonely and would like a friend to talk to you can call The Silver Line on 0800 470 80 90 for a confidential and free conversation at any time (365 days a year, 24 hours a day).

For information on local organisations that can help visit Somerset Choices http://www.somersetchoices.org.uk and search ‘loneliness.’

Age UK provides a befriending service, call 01823 345610 for Somerset for the new year (national advice line 0800 169 165)

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For further information, please contact the Press Office on 01823 355020 or email pressoffice@somerset.gov.uk

Notes to Editors

There are lots of organisations in the community that can help people who feel lonely, here are some ideas.

The Silver Line: Call 0800 470 80 90 (365 days/24 hours a day) for a confidential and free conversation at any time over Christmas or in the New Year.

Age UK Befriending Together Service
Call 01823 345610 http://www.ageuk.org.uk for a friendly conversation, from the new year (national advice line 0800 169 165)

Contact the Elderly. Sign up for a Sunday afternoon tea group. Tea Parties with Friends, once a month. Phone 0800 716 543 or emailinfo@contact-the-elderly.org.uk

University of the Third Age (U3A) – not a university but a very popular and economical way to join in with interest groups run by expert volunteers, anything from bridge, walking, bowls, day trips out on a wide range of themes – whatever takes your fancy. Call 0208 466 6139 or visit: http://www.U3A.org.uk

Somerset Active Living groups http://www.somersetactiveliving.org.uk
Activities you can get involved with in your local community. So whatever your interests, you will find the information you need to get you started.

Somerset You Can Do discover volunteering: http://somersetyoucando.weebly.com/
Call 01278 664188 or contact You Can Do for ideas on volunteering http://somersetyoucando.weebly.com/

Help an older person stay well this winter: Give time to help a person who may be isolated; when winter sets in clear paths or just offer to get shopping. Keep an eye on vulnerable neighbours who may need assistance when the colder weather really sets in. Visit the NHS Stay Well this Winter website for advice: http://www.nhs.uk/staywell


1Statistics taken from ‘Safeguarding the Convoy’ A call to action from the Campaign to End Loneliness, Age UK Oxfordshire
2Holt-Lunstad, 2010. (15 cigarettes a day)
3Loneliness, Social Isolation and Living Alone in Later Life, C. Victor et al., 2003 and Mid-2014 Population Estimates UK Office for National Statistics, 2015 http://www.ageuk.org.uk/latest-press/60-of-older-people-dont-expect-festive-happiness/

Key facts for Somerset:

In Somerset there are over 33,000 people aged 65 or older who live on their own.
More than 27,000 one-person households in which the resident has a long-term health problem or disability. (2011 Census).

1 in 5 Somerset residents aged 65 or more have no access to car or van. The proportion is even higher in some rural towns and villages and amongst women. (2011 Census)

Nationally, almost half of those aged 80 and over say they are lonely at least some of the time, and one in six are lonely ‘often’ (English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. (ELSA) 2009-10)

1 in 8 people aged 65 or older say they feel cut off from society. (TNS Survey for Age UK 2014)
BBC Somerset has morning phone in programme on loneliness for Tuesday 15th December (0900 to 12.00). There will be spokespeople from Somerset County Council Public Health and community and voluntary organisations.

To view all of our news releases, please visit http://www.somersetnewsroom.com

The SCC Communications Team are also on social media:

To find out who the elected Somerset County Councillor is for a particular area, simply visit http://www.somerset.gov.uk/councillors-and-democracy/councillors/somerset-county-councillors/