Winter can be a particularly lonely time for some people and as we approach the end of another difficult year, we know that a lot of people may be struggling to get into the ‘festive spirit’.

There are lots of ways to help lonely or socially isolated elderly people in your community. A simple friendly chat or phone call could make all the difference. It could be over a cup of tea and a mince pie, or during a socially distanced walk.

Giving some of your time could help you as much as the person you support, as it's likely to boost your self-esteem and sense of purpose. You don’t need to be an expert – just listening can help. The Samaritans’ SHUSH active listening tips can help you start a difficult conversation.

The Campaign To End Loneliness suggests 12 imaginative ways to tackle loneliness and make everyone feel more connected at Christmas. These range from giving a neighbour a card, to sharing a mince-pie moment, to recommending comedian Sarah Millican's #Joinin chat on Twitter for people who want company on Christmas Day.

The NHS website links to lots more information and organisations which can help. It also offers ideas on how to help, including:

  • Start a conversation
  • Offer practical help
  • Share your time
  • Help with household tasks
  • Share a meal
  • Watch for signs of winter illness.

Samaritans volunteers will be on hand over the festive season to listen to anyone having a tough time. Thousands of volunteers across the UK and Ireland will be working shifts to ensure the free helpline is open night and day round the clock, including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve. Mental health, family issues, isolation and loneliness are expected to be the top concerns. Call 116 123 for free.

Note: please follow the latest UK Government advice on Coronavirus: how to stay safe and help prevent the spread.