DUNCAN BARKES: A fundamental need to make lives less lonely

I have never understood why in this country our attitude to pensioners differs from some other nations.

Elsewhere they are respected, looked after by their families and included in society.

In the UK we often seem to either forget about or disregard our elders.

Latest figures from Age UK show that just under half-a-million pensioners will spend Christmas alone.

Many others admit to fearing the festive season will evoke painful memories of loved ones who have passed away.

Christmas can be a hellish time if you have recently lost a loved one, especially as television commercials seem to be framed in a family setting and most programmes feature cosy images of families celebrating.

Even worse are the shows designed to tug at your heart strings.

Usually featuring reunited families who had drifted apart, or men meeting the heroes who saved their lives on the frontline (you get the picture), if you have recently lost a partner or are lonely, then these emotive scenes will do nothing for your mental state.

I think this time of year really highlights how much more we could do for our elderly population, especially those who face Christmas alone.

But it is not just the festive season that pinpoints our negligence.

There seems to be a national mind-set that means when our elderly require support, they are simply shoved into a care home and forgotten about.

When an elderly relative gets to the stage they can no longer live alone, in countries such as Italy or Spain they move into the home of a son or daughter.

They are fully integrated into that family unit and are included in activities and holidays.

A similar approach in this country seems rare.

During a recent radio phone-in on the matter, someone suggested it is harder for children to care for or to see much of their OAP parents because our country has become much more fragmented over the years.

People cite the fact they can’t afford a property near to their parents’ homes, or they have had to move to a different part of the country for work as reasons for reduced contact with the mums and dads.

I suppose these are valid points, but I still say our fundamental attitude towards our pensioners needs to change.

I try and do my bit for our older population by volunteering for a charity that uses radio to help pensioners feel less isolated and alone.

Perhaps if we all did a bit more then this time of year would feel far less isolated for some.