COMPANY and conversation is on offer for people who may be feeling lonely this winter.

Free monthly get-togethers are being arranged to help confront 'community loneliness'.

Research by Age UK estimates there are 1.2 million chronically lonely older people in the UK with the number of over 50s experiencing loneliness set to reach two million by 2025/6, a 49 per cent increase in ten years.

There are many causes of loneliness, including poor health, bereavement and a lack of contact with family, friends or neighbours.

Twelve Colten Care homes are hosting the Tea & Togetherness gatherings.

The move follows the success of an event which began last summer in the east of the county.

It has continued to grow in popularity with more and more people from the community attending.

Regular visitor Margaret Howl said: “It’s fantastic. You are always made so welcome and I am meeting people I haven’t seen for years. It’s a happy, friendly experience each time. I never expected to be coming into a care home and enjoying this level of companionship.”

Margaret has already struck up a friendship with fellow visitor Sue Turner, who said: “I would encourage anyone living on their own, or who is feeling lonely, to come along. So many elderly people live away from their families and are not speaking much with neighbours. In contrast, these get-togethers are wonderful. They get you out of the house, help keep your brain active and you can even have a dance if you want the exercise."

Mark Aitchison, Colten Care Chief Executive said: “We’ve been making contact with people through GP surgeries, churches and community facilities to help promote what we’re doing.

“We have always worked hard to help elderly people who may be at risk of feeling isolated. But, equally, we know there is increasing awareness of the impact of loneliness on health and wellbeing and so we’ve stepped up our efforts to make a difference.”

Tea & Togetherness events include:

  • Whitecliffe House, Whitecliff Mill Street, Blandford on the third Thursday of the month, starting January 16
  • Castle View, Bridport Road, Poundbury on the third Tuesday of the month, starting January 21
  • Abbey View, Fairfield, Bristol Road, Sherborne on the fourth Thursday of the month, starting January 23
  • Newstone House, Sturminster Newton on the second Thursday of the month, starting February 13

All start at 2.30pm. For more information call 01425 460900.