Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo's website.
With Christmas around the corner, we are all getting into the full swing of the festivities this holiday season has to offer by visiting extended family we don’t get to see during the rest of the year, celebrating the end of the year with neighbours and work colleagues or just simply cosying up with a classic festive movie with our nearest and dearest on a cold winter’s night.
In the battle of the Christmas adverts, John Lewis, this year in partnership with Age UK, may not have been the tear-jerker of previous years but it did pack a punch in highlighting an issue that many of us forget when surrounded by our loved ones during the festive season: loneliness.
Loneliness can affect us all. This is more pertinent as we get older, with over one million older people saying they go without speaking to a friend, family member or neighbour for a month.
During the Christmas holidays, loneliness can be even harder to bear for older people who may have no loved ones around them with little, or no, festive celebrations to enjoy.
That is why it was so heart-warming to see one of the most high-profile and highly-anticipated adverts of the season highlight this important issue.
There is something we can all do this Christmas to support ending loneliness and end the perception that it is a normal part of ageing.
This includes putting pressure on the Government to consider loneliness as a public health problem that can be prevented and tackled.
If you support this, then you can sign Age UK’s petition on their website www.ageuk.org.uk/no-one
Tackling loneliness shouldn’t be just down to Government alone.
As individuals, we can do our own little bit to tackle loneliness, from a simple smile and a season’s greeting to an elderly neighbour you see walking down the street, to getting in touch with older relatives through a phone-call or a visit, or supporting our local Age UK here in Sunderland that works to help older people to enjoy the festive period.
That’s why when tucking into our dinner on Christmas Day or opening the next bottle of wine at the Christmas party, we must never forget those who will go lonely this Christmas and should pledge to do whatever we can, big or small, to make loneliness a thing of the past in 2016.
Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, met with older campaigners from across the country at an event in Parliament this week, organised by the charity Age UK.