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Nearly a quarter of the elderly fear a lonely Christmas

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Nearly a quarter of elderly people fear loneliness this Christmas and worry it will bring back bad memories, according to research.

This year 23% of those aged over 65 – the equivalent of 2.5 million people in Britain – suggested that the festive season would not be a happy one, an Age UK study found.

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The research revealed that nearly 400,000 pensioners are dreading the prospect of a lonely Christmas, while 650,000 worried the festive season “brings back too many memories of those who have passed away”.

Barbara, 85, said she became lonely when she lost her husband of 56 years following a sudden heart attack. On the same day her daughter was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died not long after.

With Christmas approaching I miss being able to talk things like Christmas dinner over, all that’s gone. The unity of family life is gone, and what are you left with? Bitterness and being alone.

– BARBARA

Barbara said she had spent one Christmas day listening to her phone’s voice mail to pass the time. “The message kept saying there are no new calls – I kept listening to that – I missed the sound of a human voice,” she said. She said her situation had improved with the assistance of Age UK’s call scheme.

If I hadn’t had those ongoing, anonymous calls I don’t know where I would be now. “Sometimes I was crying all the time on the phone but now I really look forward to that call. When you’re totally alone it’s a very sad, debilitating place to be.

– BARBARA

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More than 11 million people are aged over 65 in the UK for the first time in history, according to the Office for National Statistics.Age UK surveyed 1,248 people older people as part of its annual winter survey.

Older people and their families can call Age UK Advice for free on 08001696565.

If you are in distress or need some support, the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day on 08457 90 90 90 or visit their website.

For those in the Republic of Ireland, the number is 1850 60 90 90.

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