Figures show a third of the North East are lonely at Christmas 

Just 'another day' for the region's elderly

Christmas for many is a time of joy, giving and spending much needed time with family.
This is most likely what you have been brought up with and is just a common thing for you this time of year. It might not ever cross your mind that people out there spend the holidays alone, or in poor mental health.
New research shows that as many as a third of people in the North East of England are embarrassed about admitting they are alone at Christmas.
The survey of 2,051 people also found that more than one in five people in the North-East, some 21 per cent, would not feel able to ask for help at Christmas if they were struggling emotionally.

"The effects of not feeling able to reach out for support Christmas can be potentially devastating. Almost one in ten people in the region admitted they have considered taking their own lives because of the festive period, with almost the same amount considering harming themselves."

Older people living alone are considered vulnerable to illness, and even death caused by the colder weather. Official National figures show an average of nearly 30,000 are dying each year because of cold weather.

They are also prone to mental health issues caused by loneliness which is particularly acute at Christmas and the New Year when families traditionally spend time together.

According to Samaritans, a charity aimed at helping those who struggle with mental health and any other problems or concerns they may have, is reaching out for those who may be feeling lonely, and loved ones to always lend an ear to listen.

Samaritans volunteers are expected to be on hand for a staggering 123,000 hours over the festive season to listen to anyone having a tough time, as more than 11,000 volunteers across the UK and Ireland will be working shifts for the charity to ensure its helpline is open round the clock, even on Christmas Day and New Year's Eve.

The charity believes that mental health, family issues, isolation and loneliness are expected to be the top concerns over the holiday period, and many are too embarrassed to admit that they are alone.

Older people being alone at Christmas has been a topic in the media regularly over the past few years, with wide attention garnered from the John Lewis advert back in 2015, which showed a young girl using a telescope to communicate with an elderly man alone on the moon.

John Lewis partnered with charity, Age UK, to remind consumers to consider those who will be alone at Christmas. 

Age UK are no strangers to adverts about the subject, with their most recent 2017 advert already showing the painful truth behind the day to day loneliness older people feel.

Helen Mills, the Chief Executive of Age UK Northumberland, said: "Loneliness statistics are incredibly worrying and the white paper we have put together aims to address these issues across the North East – drawing attention to factors such as health, social networks and neighbourhood characteristics which can effect a person's likelihood to be lonely, and highlighting the information and advice, health and wellbeing, advocacy, bereavement support and befriending services local Age UKs offer."

"Chronic loneliness is not only horrible to experience day in, day out, it can also have a devastating impact on an older person's mental and physical health."

Currently in the UK, more than 1.2 million older people in England are chronically lonely, and 1.4 million admit that Christmas day passes them by just like any other. Out of those alone in the North East, 

Loneliness isn't just a temporary thing either, it can have lasting effects. Age UK actually states that loneliness can be as harmful for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and can increase the risks of dementia and high blood pressure. 

Mills continues: "Loneliness doesn't only affect older people over the Christmas period, but because most of us expect to spend this time of the year enjoying ourselves with family and friends it can make those who are unwillingly on their own, feel all the more left out and miserable.

“For many lonely older people the festive season also brings back memories of happier times in years gone by, reminding them of partners and other close relatives and friends who are no longer around and who they sorely miss."

"Loneliness can be as harmful for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day."

Age UK said the high numbers of lonely over 65s is caused by families being more geographically scattered due to increasing divorce rates and the changing job market.

Working families live busy, hectic lives and as more of us use electronic devices, older people risk being isolated from these conversations.

But it does not take much to stop older people feeling lonely - with well over a quarter saying a visit a week was enough.

The charity urges the people of the North East to check on their elderly neighbours, relatives, friends and end the campaign on loneliness. 

Age UK are supporting the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness. Read more here:

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