People urged to spend time with lonely neighbours and relatives over the Christmas period

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For families across Suffolk, tomorrow will be a day to celebrate, unwrap presents and sit down to a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings.

But there is another side to Christmas Day which charity and health chiefs were last night urging people not to forget – the thousands of individuals who will be battling loneliness and isolation.

Latest figures estimate that across the country almost 400,000 people aged around 65 are worried about being lonely over the festive period.

In Suffolk, there are about 15,000 older people who go without a meaningful conversation with others for a month or more, with one in 10 over the age of 65 saying they are often or always lonely.

A number of events and projects will take place in the county over the Christmas period in a bid to help them, but people are also being urged to take some simple steps to help their relatives and neighbours.

Sharron Cozens, acting chief executive of Age UK Suffolk, said: “At Age UK Suffolk, we see many cases of older people who are lonely, who spend this celebratory time with no one to phone, visit, or even say hello to.

“During this festive period, we are asking everyone to remember to pick up the phone and call their relatives, to check up on their elderly neighbours or to consider becoming an Age UK Suffolk Befriending volunteer as a New Year resolution.

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“Through small acts of kindness, we can let the older people of Suffolk know that they have a friend in all of us.”

Tackling loneliness will be the theme of a campaign due to launch in the new year, supported by this newspaper.

In addition to the feelings of isolation, health officials in the county say loneliness can also have a significant impact on health and wellbeing.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “With an increased focus on friends and family over the festive period, loneliness can be even more acutely felt at this time of year.

“The council is keen to work with the local voluntary sector, and other partners, to find ways to address the issues of social isolation and loneliness.

“We can all play our part by taking a moment to chat to a neighbour, take part in a group activity with shared interests or by helping out with a small act of kindness for someone in the community.

“There are also plenty of opportunities to volunteer to support others to overcome loneliness and isolation. Ten minutes of your time can make a real difference.”

If you know an older person who is lonely, or who needs information, advice or support, you can call Age UK Suffolk on 01473 351234.

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