Lonely Christmas

Reporter: Clare Brady

Christmas is as much about factoring in the forgotten as it is about presents, the turkey and the tree "Peace of mind is exactly what it is." Gina agrees

Gina MacPherson is a stylish 92 year old. She's also a widow and her only child lives in Los Angeles a long way from home. Gina relies on the kindness of Red Cross volunteers calling her every day to see how she is.

"It's a safety net for people who don't have close family. You know that Red Cross are going to call you every morning and so you go to bed and you sleep because you know that they are looking after you." Said Gina

The World War II nurse cared for injured diggers after they'd fought in Dunkirk now she relies on the Red Cross to keep an eye on her too.

"Just that feeling that you know you could fall down and break your leg or something and not be able to get to the phone and you might not be found for days." She said

There are 5000 other elderly people Red Cross volunteers make sure they call every day.

It's become a trusted safety net for the isolated in our community. Michael Raper understands that especially on Christmas day when one of his volunteers calls someone on that list, it may be the only person they get to chat to all day.

"I think its a given that with more and more people living alone and older people living alone more often than even younger people, that they do need that contact to lend that little bit of connection with society especially around Christmas which can be a very lonely period if you don't have any contact." He said

Father Bob McGuire believes Santa's, sales, and selfishness have become the material trifecta in the race to the 25th "well a material festival, a material only festival go be an explorer, go looking for something unusual on Christmas Day and you'll hit the jack pot you will!"

As Father Bob McGuire knows it's the unknown neighbour who gets lost along the way.

He's urging everyone to look outside their immediate family and connect "It's hard yacka because we've been programmed not to be sociable except with people who can return the favour. Now this is the secret of Christmas, I'm now going to be sanctimonious; the secret of Christmas is to kind of exchange compliments with strangers."

Studies show social isolation is becoming a bigger issue every year. It's estimated 22 per cent of Australians aged over 65 are either socially isolated or at risk of becoming so. Almost half of our older population live alone.

"It's a pity but many people are not abandoned by their family, they just don't have any family left. They've outlived a lot of their rest of their family. .and they actually need that contact very much." Michael said

And at this time of the year some homes can echo with loneliness, making Christmas feel even more insular.

"If you want to have a happy Christmas you've got to make someone else's Christmas happy. Sure it's a strange business; it's who cares wins at Christmas."

And if you'd like to become a volunteer to call those who need to hear a friendly voice or if you're someone who needs a daily check-up call go to

www.redcross.org.au/get-involved.aspx

1800 811 700