More than a quarter of pensioners are not looking forward to Christmas because of loneliness and concerns that it brings back bad memories, according to research.
Some 26 per cent of older people – the equivalent of 2.8 million in Britain – suggested that the festive season would not be a time of happiness this year.
It emerged that some 450,000 over-65s faced the prospect of Christmas alone while large numbers of also feared it “brought back too many memories of those who had passed away”.
Research also found that almost one-in-five had concerns about not being able to get out because of the cold weather and shorter days.
The disclosure – in a study by Age UK – comes after the Archbishop of Canterbury warned that the “absurd and ridiculous” pressure to have a perfect Christmas was putting a strain on family life.
The Most Rev Justin Welby said this week that many people had lost the true meaning of Christmas, insisting that families should use the festive period to show love rather than buy the most expensive presents.
It also follows claims from Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, that hundreds of thousands of older people are left lonely and without any regular social contact, which he insisted was Britain’s “national shame”.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, said that this time of year had a particularly damaging effect on older people who had been left “vulnerable” by cuts to social services budgets.
“As we head towards Christmas this is a chilling outlook for too many older people,” she said.
“What’s even more concerning is that the majority of older people facing Christmas alone are aged 80 or over, making them the most vulnerable and at risk at this time of year.
“People’s social networks often shrink due to life-changing events such as retirement and bereavement which can increase the risk of feeling lonely, and we are extremely concerned that this coupled with on-going cuts to local authority budgets means that even more older people will feel lonely this winter.”
In total, around 10.84m people are aged over 65 in Britain. Age UK surveyed some 1,117 older people as part of its annual winter survey.
In total, some 18 per cent were worried about not being able to “get out and about as much because of shorter, darker days and poor weather conditions”.
Figures also show that 26 per cent – the equivalent of 2.8m when extrapolated nationally – said they were “not looking forward to Christmas this year”.
Of those, 17 per cent said that Christmas brought back too many memories of those who had passed away, while a similar figure said they were facing the festive season alone. The charity calculated that 450,000 people over 65 would be alone this Christmas.
Age UK called on older people to get in touch with their local branch, insisting the charity offered a range of services such as befriending, which might include home visits and telephone calls for those feeling lonely or isolated.
Nearest tube – Elephant & Castle underground station (Northern and Bakerloo lines).
Nearest Railway Station – Elephant & Castle
Buses from Elephant and Castle – ask bus driver for Burgess Park. Bus numbers: 12, 171, 148, 176, 68, 484, 42, 40, 45