'Cuppa and chat can combat loneliness' - Marian
Marian Keyes believes everyone can relate to feeling alone in the run-up to Christmas.
The author, who has sold more than 35 million books, is encouraging people to take a few minutes out of their day to interact with their older neighbours and relatives, who may be feeling lonely as the festive season approaches.
Keyes helped launch char- ity Alone's Make Your Minutes Count Christmas campaign, which is helping to combat loneliness and other challenges faced by older people.
"Loneliness and isolation can be serious problems, and dropping in for a chat or helping a neighbour with their shopping could make all the difference," she said.
"Sometimes all it takes is a cup of tea and a bit of a laugh to lift an older person's spirits.
"A few minutes may not mean much to you, but to a lonely older person it could be the highlight of their day."
Alone said one in 10 people over 75 are lonely a lot of the time, and demand for its services has increased five-fold in recent years.
Keyes said many older people might be embarrassed to admit that they are lonely.
"What might only seem like a quick chat to you can make an older person feel loved, appreciated, and they are part of the community," she said.
"Older people have the most amazing stories to tell, and it's really important we take the time to listen."
Alone chief executive Sean Moynihan said loneliness is a year-round issue, but it can be particularly difficult during the festive period.
"We are asking people to support Alone by giving a little bit of their time to older people who are alone, by making a donation to our services or by referring an older person who might use our services."
Contact Alone on 0818 222 024 if you have concerns about your own well-being or that of an older person.