The John Lewis Christmas advert has a highlighted the scourge of loneliness which affects the elderly, particularly at Christmas. But when loneliness is a health problem as well as a social one, can a christmas advert really help?
To spend our final years alone and without love; it is probably among one of our greatest fears.
Sadly however, it is a lived reality for thousands, apparent as more than half of people aged 75 or above live alone, according to the NHS.
It is a theme which was thoughtfully explored by a video synonymous with Christmas, the annual tearjerker that is, the John Lewis Christmas advert.
As ever, the ingenious video could evoke a response, even from the most emotionally barren Scrooge.
Featuring a young girl named Lucy the video begins as she spots an elderly man on the moon through her telescope.
After numerous failed attempts at attracting his attention, she sends a Christmas parcel to him containing a telescope.
He looks through his telescope at the festive streets, which are illuminated with brightly coloured lights, and when he finds Lucy waving at him a tear trickles down his cheek[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuz2ILq4UeA]
The cynical humbugs among us may condone the advert as nothing more than an emotionally manipulative ploy for a company to flog its wares, but this advert highlights a serious plight that doesn’t receive the attention it deserves.
According to The Campaign To End Loneliness, over 5 million elderly people said that their primary source of company is their TV set, a statistic which encouraged Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to say that it was a “national shame” that our country is, quite simply, ignoring the emotional needs of the elderly.
Some campaigners say that loneliness is a real health risk: indeed in a striking study conducted by Brigham Young University, researchers that when it comes to premature deaths, the impact of loneliness is comparible with obesity or smoking 15 a day.
Sponsors of the department store’s campaign, Age UK said it was “delighted and touched” at the reaction to the advert so far, as both volunteer recruitments and charitable donations have risen as a result.
— Age UK Campaigns (@ageukcampaigns) November 8, 2015
It is clear that our society has become fragmented and our communities are less close-knit.
Social hubs such as post offices and libraries are closing rapidly and when you go to your local supermarket you are likely to hear the clinical voice of a self-service checkout than have any human-to-human contact.
Humans are inherently social beings, we depend on people to engage with, to share experiences, and make life that bit more meaningful than it otherwise would be.
Whilst slogging away at work, we financially prepare for retirement. We shouldn’t have to prepare for loneliness. It should be our right to have dignity, security and love in our final years.
Charitable organisations including Age UK and Friends Of The Elderly run fantastic befriending services to link younger and older people and break down generational barriers, and which would be beneficial to both.
Loneliness is a scourge that we, as a society, need to overcome. It is miserable but by no means inevitable. No one should ever die feeling that they are alone in the world.