How grandma celebrates Christmas by herself

I came across this article from the UK about elderly people spending their merry Christmas on their own. I found it interesting, depressing, and even discovered a link to health in the whole dilemma.

While for many people Christmas is the only time in the year when they actually meet family and friends, others are not cared for by anybody or do not care for anybody (anymore). Thus, they spend the celebration of love alone, like a quarter of all people in the UK that are older than 75 and live by themselves – even though the majority of them have children.

Experts say that “family breakdown is fuelling an epidemic of loneliness in old age” and that the fact that two in five marriages fail has serious impacts for the elderly. Young people have to divide their time between parents and step-parents. Besides, ‘silver separations’ are also becoming more common, with latest figures showing that more than 11,500 over-60s were granted a divorce in 2009.

In one of the largest surveys of its kind, the think-tank polled 2,000 over-75s to test how isolated the elderly truly are. ‘I’m 88 and I have nobody at all. I’m on my own’, said one, and ‘some days the only person I speak to is the boy in the shop when I pick up my paper.’

Growing isolation and loneliness makes elderly people particularly vulnerable – also in terms of health. Related mental and physical health conditions include a weakened immune system, sleep deprivation, higher blood pressure, a higher risk of dementia and depression. What to do?

In the UK there is an initiative that involves the police, fire officers conducting home safety checks, as well as social workers who see “warning signs” to connect people to local voluntary groups that can provide companionship. But is that a solution of the problem really?

old lady

Chapman J (2011): 250,000 elderly people who’ll be spending their Christmas alone. Available:


About Olivia Biermann

I'm passionate about Health Communication Sciences and Global Health. From 11/2013 till 10/2014, I worked at the Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics at Karolinska Institutet where I was involved in a study about health promotion among disadvantaged populations in Stockholm for the prevention of chronic illness. I'm currently working as a consultant at the World Health Organization in Copenhagen.

One response to “How grandma celebrates Christmas by herself”

  1. Trina says :

    Touche. Solid arguments. Keep up the amazing effort.

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