No one should have no one, especially at Christmas.

Ahead of Christmas, it’s important for constituents to remember to spend time and look out for their elderly neighbours, friends and relatives and include older people in their plans for the festive period.

For most of us Christmas is a time we very much look forward to – a time when we come together with friends and family and enjoy each other’s company.

But for some people Christmas can be a very lonely time of year – research carried out by Age Scotland suggests older people feel lonelier at Christmas than at any other time of the year, and that those who have been widowed were most at risk. The consequences of loneliness can lead to poor physical and mental health and has been linked with conditions such as heart disease and dementia.

I visited Age Scotland a few months ago at their Edinburgh-based headquarters to support their petition to retain free TV licences for over-75s. The charity told me that 100,000 older people in Scotland feel lonely all or most of the time, and that almost half of over-75s say that their main form of company is the TV or a pet.

That needs to change. So I’m urging people across Edinburgh to remember the older people in their community and check in on them over the Christmas period, as well as at other times of the year.

Something as simple as having a cup of tea with an older people can make a huge difference to that person and helps tackle their feelings of loneliness and isolation. At all ages, people’s attitudes and self-esteem are significantly affected by feeling needed and appreciated.

In April this year, Christina McKelvie, Minister for Older People, published the Scottish Government’s ‘A Fairer Scotland for Older People: framework for action’ plan, which followed the ‘A Connected Scotland’ strategy – published last December – to tackle social isolation and loneliness and build social connections. Both of these strategies demonstrate that we are taking action, and that tackling loneliness is something the Government takes extremely seriously.

I also strongly endorse Age Scotland’s fantastic ‘#ShareWhatYouLove’ campaign, encouraging members of the public to share a hobby of their with an older person who lives alone, giving them an opportunity to go out, meet new people and feel part of society.

I have already committed to taking part in this campaign in the New Year by inviting elderly constituents out to do something I really enjoy in my spare time – walking!

It’s a fantastic idea for a campaign which will make a real difference to an older people feeling lonely at any time of the year. If you would like to take part in this initiative please visit http://www.ageuk.org.uk/scotland/ and pledge your time to someone who would really appreciate it.

No one should have no one, especially at Christmas.

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