Lonely pensioner places ad for Christmas companion

An elderly Irish man has placed a newspaper advert in the hope of finding a companion for Christmas Day, so that he doesn’t have to spend the holiday on his own for the tenth year in a row.

James Gray, 85, has no immediate family and finds the festive season the loneliest time of the year. He placed the advert in the Irish Post to try and find someone in a similar position to himself, so they could spend the day together.

He said: “I think there must be quite a few lonely people around and I am on my own, so it would make sense I think if someone came here for Christmas lunch. This time of year is so hard if you are old and alone because it feels like everybody else around you is enjoying themselves.”

Half a million elderly people will be on their own

Someone did respond to the advert and agreed to spend the day at Mr Gray’s flat, but then cruelly the offer was withdrawn as the person decided to spend the day elsewhere.

Mr Gray’s unfortunate position is one that is faced by millions of elderly people around the world.

British charity Age UK estimate that nearly half a million elderly people will spend this Christmas on their own.

Director Caroline Abrahams said: “As we head towards Christmas this is a chilling outlook for too many older people. What’s even more concerning is that the majority of older people facing Christmas alone are aged 80 or over, making them the most vulnerable and at risk at this time of year.”

The problem is particularly effecting Irish men living in the UK. 10% of Irish people living in Britain are in this this high-risk over-80 age group, compared with 5% of the overall population.

‘I do not want it to be the same this year’

There are several groups acting to try and tackle the issue. Tom McLoughlin, of the Leeds Irish Centre says that he sees elderly people isolated from the community first hand. He runs a coffee morning once a week to get pensioners out of their homes and interacting with others.

He spoke of the problem and how many Irish men are the worst affected: “A lot of them came over here to work on the buildings but now find themselves on their own because they have no immediate family and did not marry. The problem is that they are very proud people and will not go cap-in-hand to others.”

Mr Gray, who lives in London, remains hopeful that he will get another response to his advert, adding: “I just want to find someone in time. I am used to the loneliness, but I do not want it to be the same this year.”