First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is today (Monday 5 December) backing Age Scotland’s campaign encouraging people to support their older friends, neighbours and relatives at Christmas.
Almost sixty five thousand people in Scotland who are aged 60 or over feel lonelier at Christmas time, with bereavement, immobility and family having moved away being the main causes, according to new figures from Age Scotland. These also show that more than 54,000 older Scots will spend Christmas alone.
No one should have no one at Christmas – Age Scotland’s campaign on loneliness and isolation – is encouraging everyone to think about what they can do to address and prevent loneliness in their neighbourhoods and among their friends and families – whether that be calling in on their neighbours to see if they need a helping hand or asking local groups who support older people if they need help. The First Minister will lead by example today (5 December) by visiting a sheltered housing development in Edinburgh. Residents there and some pupils from nearby Drummond Community High School will be enjoying an intergenerational Christmas tea party, organised by the Pilmeny Development Project. The residents and pupils have been taking part in an intergenerational project where young and older people have been learning about each other’s lives and taking part in social activities together. Both will receive certificates marking the project’s completion.
The Charity has published new figures showing the stark reality of loneliness amongst older people at this time of year, with 200,000 older Scots going half a typical week or more with no visits or phone calls from anyone[iii]. The overwhelming majority (86 per cent) of those surveyed also agreed that there should be more help available for lonely older people.
Age Scotland has welcomed a pledge from the Scottish Government to develop a national strategy to tackle loneliness in Scotland – which could be the first such plan anywhere in the world.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP said:
“Dealing with loneliness and isolation can be incredibly difficult, but at this time of year it’s especially heart-breaking to see that so many older Scots will spend Christmas alone. Age Scotland’s work to ensure that ‘No one should have no one at Christmas’ is vitally important, and everyone can play a part. “By reaching out to older people in their street or community – by taking them out, doing a good deed or simply having a chat – people can have a hugely positive impact on the wellbeing and happiness of an older person.”
Brian Sloan, Age Scotland Chief Executive, said:
“It is often life events such as bereavement, ill health and complex long term health conditions such as diabetes and arthritis – all more common in later life – that give rise to feelings of loneliness and which if left unaddressed can cause long-term misery.
“As part of our No one should have no one at Christmas campaign, we’re asking people to check on older neighbours and perhaps even see if they need a helping hand. Small gestures, like going round for a cuppa, or clearing paths of snow or ice and showing you are concerned, can provide comfort and aid to older people.
“Our national Freephone telephone helpline – 0800 12 44 222 – available for older people, their families and carers, offers friendship and contact as well as information and advice. We’d like to encourage people to get in touch, particularly over the winter months, and have a chat with our team of friendly advisers.”
“Age Scotland has made tackling loneliness one of our strategic priorities. Following a ground-breaking parliamentary inquiry last year, we welcomed the Scottish Government’s commitment to create a national strategy to tackle social isolation, which could be the first worldwide. We now look forward to seeing this commitment realised in the months ahead.”
Alex McKee, Port of Leith Housing Association tenant, said:
“I really enjoy coming to Pilmeny Development Project groups – it’s a bit o’ company and you get a blether. If I wasnae coming here, I don’t know what I would do – it really makes a difference.”