Age UK has launched its Christmas ad campaign and it’s heartbreaking

More than 1.2 million older people in the UK are chronically lonely

By Alison Lynch, 06 December 2016
Age UK has launched its Christmas ad campaign and it’s heartbreaking

Age UK has launched its festive ad campaign, starring actors James Bolam and Miriam Margoyles, and it will really pull at the heart strings.

The two powerful ads, focusing on the stories of two real elderly people, Janet and Roy, highlight the problem of loneliness at Christmas. 

According to new figures from Age UK, almost a million (982,200) of those aged 60+ feel lonelier at Christmas time, with those who are single, separated or widowed feeling it the most.

If those figures don't immediately hit home, the very real and personal stories of Janet and Roy definitely do. 

First, actress and Age UK Ambassador Miriam Margolyes OBE, narrates Janet's story.

She begins by chatting about her travels to Australia when she was younger and how brave and independent she felt. Then the camera pans out and you see her sitting alone. At one point, she admits: "It's a bit strange when you realise you haven't spoken to anybody for days...or weeks. It's like I've forgotten how to speak."

The real Janet said of Age UK's campaign: "A lot of people assume that older people are surrounded by friends and family, especially at this time of year. Sadly, that’s not the case for all of us. I’ve dedicated my life to my career and then one day I found myself older and lonely – this wasn’t what I was used to, or what I wanted."

The second story, starring actor and fellow Age UK ambassador James Bolam, comes from Roy, aged 83. Roy is seen making a dinner for one in the kitchen as he chats about his time in the Second Royal Tank Regiment during the Second World War. He also describes the moment he met his wife, whom he married in 1960. 

"I remember the first time I saw her," he says. "She had a yellow dress on, I'll always remember that. I told her, 'You're the kind of girl who would ride shotgun on a stage coach'. She was my right-hand man."

The real Roy (seen, right, below with James) said of the campaign: "Loneliness is something I have experienced first-hand and it goes without saying how upsetting it can be. My beautiful wife passed away one year ago and not a day goes by when I don’t miss her dearly. It takes some getting used to, going from spending every single day for the past 55 years with the woman I love, to facing each day without her."

So, how can you help people like Janet and Roy? 

Age UK is using the ads to promote its telephone befriending service, Call In Time. The service relies on dedicated volunteers who are matched to lonely and isolated older people based on shared interests, and then make regular phone calls to offer friendship, support and practical advice. Click here to find out how you can volunteer. 

Anyone who is experiencing feelings of loneliness and would like to sign up to Age UK’s telephone befriending service should visit or call Age UK Advice free of charge on 0800 169 6565 or contact their local Age UK to see what services are available locally.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: 'For the vast majority of people Christmas is a joyous and sociable time but for a significant minority it is a thoroughly depressing reminder of just how lonely and miserable they feel all year round.

'We are so grateful to Roy and Janet for sharing their stories and to James and Miriam for using their huge acting talents to help everyone understand just how heart-breaking and serious a condition loneliness is. There is, sadly, no easy or magic solution for loneliness but we all have the capacity to make a difference to the older people in our lives – the friends, relatives and neighbours who we don’t see or speak to enough.

"A simple phone call or visit, particularly at this time of year when feelings of loneliness can feel especially raw, can really lift the spirits of someone who is going through a difficult time."