Senior Help Line has issued a reminder that their phone service will operate right throughout the Christmas period.
The confidential listening service for older people provided by trained older volunteers is open every day of the year from 10am to 10pm including all the days of Christmas and the New Year.
The LoCall number is 1850 440 444, and no call costs more than 30 cents.
People phone because they are lonely, or anxious, or dealing with a particular crisis or problem. Others call for contact and company, and the conversation with the Senior Help Line volunteer may be the only human voice they have heard for days.
Over 140,000 older people in Ireland live alone, according to latest figures from the CSO, and such numbers are growing annually. Living on your own does not necessarily mean feeling lonely, but when you factor in age, ill-health, frailty, fears or bereavement, it is understandable that the days and nights can seem grey, long and empty.
Add Christmas to the equation, and you can begin to get some sense of how stark and non-festive the festive season can be for some lonely people.
Here is what some Senior Help Line callers said to us last Christmas:
‘I am dreading Christmas. I am used to being on my own, but somehow at Christmas, it seems wrong’.
‘My neighbour left me in a small Christmas cake today. It has made all the difference, someone cares’
‘I went to bed last night with my clothes on, this is a very cold house and even over Christmas, I must ration my heat’
‘My wife died in the hospice earlier this year, it will be my first Christmas without her, the children are doing their best, and they miss their mother, but they’re not heartbroken like I am’
‘I had beans on toast for Christmas dinner’
‘I thought my brother and his wife would have me to stay, they have asked me for Christmas dinner, but then I have to go home, I feel very hurt’
Loneliness has been described as a state of mind, characterised by feelings of sadness, longing, even despair. We are social beings. An isolated daily routine can make for an unhealthy lifestyle, and nudge towards depression and mental illness. There is increased awareness of the damage that loneliness can do to body, mind and spirit, and we are now learning that loneliness can be a silent killer.