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Lonely Christmas ahead for many elderly kiwis - Age Concern

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Age Concern Auckland fears many elderly people are in for a lonely Christmas this year.

The charity, which provides dedicated services and support for older people, says 20 per cent of older Aucklanders experience loneliness. With 189,000 people aged 65+ in Auckland, that equates to 37,800 people.

Chief Executive Kevin Lamb says "The effect of loneliness and isolation on wellbeing is severe. The detrimental impact in the elderly equates to the impact of a lifetime of heavy smoking, alcoholism, and obesity. With an ageing population, this is an issue that will only increase. We’re especially concerned this year when so many older people have had their social opportunities severely limited. Christmas makes being alone that much harder."

Lamb also worries many people form their impressions of what life is like for older people from ads for retirement facilities. But he says for many the reality is very different.

"If seniors have the means, they are able to live in supported communities full of peers, carers and activities, but if they don’t have the means, life can be lonely and bleak."

"Age Concern Auckland work with older people who don’t have family or support networks. For the older people we work with it’s not uncommon for them to go for months without a visitor, to struggle to get to appointments and get their groceries. Tackling public transport and getting around can be a major barrier to participating for our senior New Zealanders."

Age Concern Auckland works hard to provide social connection opportunities for seniors through their volunteer Visiting Service and Coffee and Friendship Groups, but Kevin knows this is only a drop in the ocean and is urging the community to come together to look out for seniors this Christmas.

"If we are all able to reach out to the older people in our lives and our neighbourhoods this Christmas, it will help alleviate their loneliness. It shows them we are thinking of them, that we care for them. Age Concern does what we can, but we all need to play our part."

Age Concerns across New Zealand are organizing Christmas care packages and presents for the older people they are working with. If you are keen to donate, contact your local Age Concern by calling 0800 65 2 105.

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