ALMOST 10,000 over-75s in Scotland will spend Christmas Day alone because their children are too busy to visit them, a new report claimed today.
A study by the older people’s charity WRVS said many elderly people were left isolated and lonely because their families had moved away, often to find work. But almost two-thirds of older people said they would not tell their children they were lonely because they did not want to “bother them”.
The figures in the report suggest that in the Lothians, around 1700 over-75s will be on their own on Christmas Day.
The findings came as a separate report warned lonely people are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Researchers found it was not so much the fact of living alone as feelings of loneliness which increased the risk of having the degenerative brain disease.
Earlier research from the WRVS showed 27 per cent of Scots over-75s feel lonely – more than in any other part of the UK.
The charity – which runs social clubs, meals on wheels, befriending schemes and other services – said 11 per cent of older people in Scotland lived at least one hour’s drive away from their nearest child, which meant almost half were visited just once every two to six months.
The research found that only 28 per cent of older people in Scotland spoke to their children on the phone every day, compared with 40 per cent across the UK as a whole, while seven per cent of older people never spoke to their children on the phone.
Most older people did not use Skype to talk to their children, many because they did not know how. Of those who did use it, 85 per cent said it helped them feel more connected, but it was not the same as seeing their children.
The regularity of Skype use varied across the nations: in Scotland 75 per cent of those who use Skype did so weekly, in Wales it was 38 per cent and in England 21 per cent.
The survey found lack of job security and changes in the labour market had increased the pressure on families, with 82 per cent of children who moved away from their older parents having done so for work reasons
Margaret Paterson, head of operations for WRVS Scotland, said: “Many children have no choice but to move away from their older parents, and really regret the fact they aren’t close enough for more regular visits.”
Across the UK, the survey found a total of 363,176 older people had children too busy to see them.
David McCullough, chief executive of WRVS, said: “This research casts light on the state of the modern family. “There are solutions, though, that will give older people the support and companionship they need and their children the reassurance that their parents are being looked after. WRVS, for example, has thousands of dedicated volunteers who can pop in to read to or run errands for older people, or simply have a chat and a cup of tea.”