Christmas is a time for family to get together and for people to spend time with their nearest and dearest.
People travel all across the country and world to be with their loved ones on the big day, but the festive season also highlights the problem of loneliness at this time of year.
Unfortunately for the older members of society, loneliness is such a problem that national campaigns have been launched to ensure some of the most vulnerable people have someone to share the holidays with.
The Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt AM said that he recently visited an aged care home where, year-round, none of the residents received a single visitor.
“This is a particularly distressing situation, despite the best efforts of the age care staff,” he said.
“I have previously raised concerns that up to 40 per cent of aged care residents receive no visitors but 100 per cent is completely unacceptable.
“So more than ever this Christmas, I am asking all Australians to reach out to people in residential aged care and relatives, friends, and community members everywhere in need of company.”
Minister Wyatt’s calls come after the Australian Red Cross released the results of their loneliness survey.
Unfortunately, it revealed that loneliness isn’t just something that strikes Australians at Christmastime.
Shockingly, seven per cent of respondents said they felt lonely all the time, 16 per cent said they felt lonely quite often, while 32 per cent said they felt alone sometimes.
Death was the biggest cause of loneliness, with 34 per cent of people saying it’s the reason they feel lonely.
A further 31 per cent of people said they felt lonely when a friend or family member moved away, while 22 per cent said they felt isolated at work or school.
Divorce or separation was the reason for 21 per cent of people feeling lonely, while the remaining 17 per cent said it was the loss of a job. For older people, it could be retiring and leaving the workforce for one last time.
To put it into perspective, an estimated 5.6 million Australians say they feel lonely.
Nearly half of people said they tried to beat loneliness by watching TV, while 30 per cent admitted to turning to social media.
The Red Cross say the best ways for people to beat loneliness including meeting neighbours, volunteering, saying hello to someone new in the neighbourhood, checking in on someone who could be in trouble and being kind on social media.
“During the festive season and every day, we support thousands of people who are lonely and socially isolated, through programs such as regular phone calls, driving patients to hospital and visiting people in their homes,” Australian Red Cross CEO Judy Slatyer yet.
“Even a simple phone call or an invitation to Christmas dinner can make the world of difference to someone who is isolated.”
In addition to the Red Cross’ Season of Belonging Campaign, the Turnbull Government provides practical support for senior Australians experiencing loneliness, with $17.2 million given to the Community Visitors Scheme this year.
“The role of a volunteer in this Scheme is simply to be a friend to someone. Our need for love, company, compassion, family and friends does not diminish as we age,” Minister Wyatt explained.
“It’s up to all of us to show people, especially senior Australians, that we care and value them, by being there as much as we can.”