UK Government

Department of Health: Spread a little Christmas care

Press Release   •   Dec 22, 2009 15:47 GMT

Spread a little Christmas care

– look in on your older neighbours, around half a million spend Christmas Day alone

With Christmas just around the corner and the country suffering from very cold weather, Health Ministers are calling on the public to keep an eye out for their older neighbours, help out with shopping or pop round for a chat.

Around half a million older people spend Christmas Day alone and more than 50 per cent of over 75s live on their own.

Christmas is about being together. But it can be the time that people can feel isolated or alone.  And it only takes a few minutes to ask after a neighbour.

Figures show:

  • around half of all people aged 75 and over live alone;
  • 17% of older people have less than weekly contact with family, friends and neighbours;
  • 11% have less than monthly contact; and
  • over 500,000 older people spent Christmas Day alone in 2006.

Phil Hope said:

“Popping your head round the door to say hello, sharing a cuppa or offering to get shopping can make all the difference to someone who is lonely or vulnerable.

“Christmas is a happy time for many of us, but for some it means being alone. And it’s a time of year when temperatures are beginning to plunge.  Checking in on someone not only brings Christmas cheer but also offers peace of mind that they are keeping well.

“In the new year, we will be putting forward plans to create a National Care Service – a simple, fair and affordable system for everyone. It will build on the care that families and neighbours already give to each other.”

The current severe weather conditions have made it all the more important to check on the needs of others and remain vigilant to the risks faced during this period of very cold weather.

Weather reports indicate that it will remain cold through this week with maximum daytime temperatures generally near or just above freezing with widespread overnight sharp frosts.

People - especially the elderly - should take extra care to avoid slips and falls and be aware vehicles might take longer to stop than normal. People who are frail or have health conditions should stay inside if at all possible.

Public Health Minister Gillian Merron said

“It is essential to look out for elderly relatives and neighbours who could be at risk over the Christmas period.

“Check they are warm enough, ensure there is enough food and medicine in the house, and if they need to go out offer to accompany them during very cold weather.”

Independent Age Director of Policy and Communications, Simon Bottery said:

"Older people value their independence but it can all too easily turn to isolation for those that struggle to get out of their homes. The most valuable Christmas present you can give this year might simply be a visit or a phone call to an older neighbour, friend or relative."

Notes to editors


1. Independent Age works to keep older people independent and out of poverty by providing them with practical support, financial help and lifelong friendship. It focuses on supporting those who are over 70, are in financial need and are lonely or isolated. Visit:

2. The figures given above were supplied by Age Concern.

3. We do not advise older people to open the door to strangers. People who wish to check on individuals who they do not know may wish to drop a note through their door inviting them round for a Christmas drink. Advice to help older people stay secure in their own homes is available at: and

4. With an ageing population, in 20 years time a quarter of the adult population in England will be over 65 and the number of people over 85 will have doubled.


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