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Lonely festive period in store for elderly

Almost 10,000 over-75s in Scotland will spend Christmas Day alone as the elderly suffer the effects of "fragmented" families, a charity has said.

The WRVS added that a lonely festive period will be experienced by many elderly people, given their children are too busy to see them, with an estimated 18,000 reporting their own family do not have the time to visit.

The charity, whose volunteers provide social clubs, meals on wheels, befriending schemes and other services, says 11% of older people in Scotland live at least one hour's drive away from their nearest child.

The report highlights the impact of what WRVS describes as "fragmented" families, and while the charity says it is not criticising younger family members, it says loneliness is often exacerbated at Christmas.

The survey showed lack of job security and labour market restructuring had increased the pressure on families, with 82% of children who moved away from their older parents having done so for work reasons.

The distance many over-75- year-olds live from their children has an impact on how often they see their family. The frequency of grown-up children visiting their parents decreases the further away they live – of those whose children live an hour's drive away or more, almost half (48%) said they were visited just once every two to six months.

According to the report, how close an older person lives to their children and how often they see them also has an impact on how isolated and lonely they feel – older people who see their children once a month or less are twice as likely to feel lonely compared to those who see their children every day. Nearly three-quarters of over-75s who live alone feel lonely, and the research shows those living alone are less likely to have face-to-face contact with their children than those who live with their husband or wife.

Margaret Paterson, head of operations for WRVS Scotland, said: "Many children have no choice but to move away from their older parents, and really regret the fact they aren't close enough for more regular visits."

The survey found 17% of older people would like to see their children more often and 67% of those who live 200 miles or more away from children would like to see more of them.

Fewer older people in Scotland spoke to their children every day (28%) than in England (40%) or Wales (37%).

Earlier research from the charity has shown 27% of Scots over-75s feel lonely – more than in any other part of the UK.

Elaine Goldie, WRVS area manager for the Highlands and Islands, said this was not purely a rural issue. "People can be equally isolated in cities, as they can in the islands," she said. "However, transport can be a bigger problem in remote areas."

She said Christmas was a time when everyone should be looking in on older neighbours.

l Feeling lonely can increase the risk of Alzheimer's in later life, a study suggests.

Researchers who found the link drew a distinction between being alone and loneliness.

The Amsterdam Study of the Elderly found participants who felt lonely were more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia over three years as those who did not.

However, other aspects of social isolation, such as living alone and being widowed, had no impact.

Contextual targeting label: 
Families

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