Society gone wrong: why 489,000 older people are set to spend Christmas alone

Monday, 03 November 2014

Societal changes are having a devastating impact on older people at Christmas, Royal Voluntary Service warns today.

Last Christmas, 2013, more than 300,000 over 75s were believed to have spent Christmas Day alone (The GB population of people aged 75 over according to ONS (2011) is 4,814,174. 7% of people surveyed said they would spend the day alone with a phone call.  7% of 4,814,174 equals 336,992 people.) and this year, that figure is set to rise as nearly half a million (489,808) older people are at risk of spending the day alone (5.9% of over 75s will be spending the day alone and a further 4.1% said they don’t know if they’ll have anyone to spend the day with. ONS data in 2012 for over 75s is 4,898,086 and 10% equals 489,808 people.)

Our research found the most common reason older people are set to be lonely this Christmas was family living far away or even in a different country, with nearly 31 per cent of over 75s who will be spending the day alone saying this is why.

Others are saying it is because they don’t speak to their children any more or because they won’t want to put their busy family under any more pressure at Christmas. Sadly, a small number admit they simply haven’t been invited to spend the day with anyone.

Nearly half (45 per cent) of over 75s, say they think families are fragmented now and under a lot of pressure, with older people easily forgotten. Technological advances, although welcomed by charities for those times when face to face contact isn’t possible, it seems has replaced an actual visit with 47 per cent saying technology means people make less effort to actually see each other.

Community ChristmasWith the majority of older people wanting a traditional Christmas spent in company (87 per cent) Royal Voluntary Service has partnered with Community Christmas for 2014, with the aim that no older person should have to spend Christmas alone if they don’t want to.

The Community Christmas website is a portal where those who are holding events, activities or offering support to older people on Christmas Day can register them. It provides a one-stop-shop for older people, their families, friends and carers to search for options near them on Christmas Day.

"Christmas Day is a time for celebration, friends and family – and usually eating too much! It is heartbreaking to think of half a million older people sitting on their own, hidden away, while the nation enjoys themselves. Let’s show older people we do care and make sure they know there are invites waiting this Christmas."

Actress and Royal Voluntary Service ambassador Felicity Kendal

"If you’re on your own when you don’t want to be at Christmas, it’s a really hard day. It only takes a pub open on Christmas Day or a community centre with a lunch on to register it at Community Christmas to show older people there are other options near them this Christmas. We want it to be a day older people can look forward to and would ask everyone to register their events on the Community Christmas website."

Caroline Billington, founder of Community Christmas

"Royal Voluntary Service works every day to improve the lives of older people at home, in hospital and in the community. We know isolation is a huge issue and this can be acutely felt if you are alone on Christmas Day, missing being with family and friends. There’s no better time to reach out and change someone’s life."

David McCullough, Royal Voluntary Service Chief Executive

You're invited for Christmas

To find a warm Christmas welcome for yourself or a friend, neighbour or loved one, go to or call 0844 4430662.

Do you want to share your Christmas this year?

Do you have an event or support available to older people on Christmas Day? Register it for free now at

Help older people every day of the year

Royal Voluntary Service is one of the largest voluntary organisations in Britain with 35,000 men and women helping people in their homes, the community, hospitals and in emergencies every day of the year and all across Great Britain - could you spare some time to make life a little easier for an older person? Search our volunteering opportunities and make a difference in your local community.

About the research

  • Telephone interviews were conducted by PCP Market Research on behalf of Royal Voluntary Service with 400 over 75s in Great Britain between 9 and 20 October 2014.
  • Established in 1990 and based in York, PCP Market Research is one of the longest established market research companies in the North East.
  • PCP is an award-winning full-service market research agency and consultancy. Their work covers both the public and private sector and includes both large-scale continuous and ad hoc projects.

For further information

Royal Voluntary Service is one of the largest volunteering charities in Britain powered by more than 40,000 volunteers who regularly provide practical help to over 100,000 older people in their homes, communities, hospitals and during emergencies. If you are over the age of 14, we have volunteering opportunities in communities, in hospitals and in emergency situations.

Find out how you can become a volunteer, call 0845 608 0122 or search for volunteering opportunities in your area. Or help make a difference by making a secure online donation.

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