Northern Ireland

Playing Our Part appeal launched by BBC NI and Age NI

Kim Lenaghan, Peggy Waters and Barra Best
Image caption Kim Lenaghan and Barra Best with Peggy Waters at the Skainos Centre

BBC Northern Ireland has joined forces with Age NI to call upon everyone to play their part this Christmas to help older people within the community.

The Playing Our Part appeal is fronted by BBC NI's Barra Best and BBC Radio Ulster's Kim Lenaghan.

It encourages as many people as possible to play their part and advises on some simple ways to help an older person.

They include calling or visiting them, helping out with some jobs around their house or just making some time for an older friend or relative.

The latest advert to go viral on social media is from a German supermarket chain.

In it an lonely man invites his far-flung family to his funeral at Christmas, only to surprise them with Christmas dinner.

Their father asks them "how else could I bring you all together?"

The advert tugs on the emotional heart strings over elderly people left alone at Christmas.

'Tears to my eyes'

BBC News NI's Mervyn Jess talked to pensioners at an Age NI centre in east Belfast what they thought of the advert.

Among them was Robert, a stroke sufferer, who's been living alone for the last nine years.

"It brings tears to my eyes," he said.

"Watching it there I immediately thought back to my own family and the times we had at Christmas."

Siobhan Casey of Age NI said some people she had talked to about such adverts loved them, while some disliked them intensely.

"From an Age NI perspective we see these ads as important, in so far as they're shining a spotlight on what we know to be happening," she said.

"We know that one in three people are lonely, we know that 30,000 older people feel trapped in their own homes

"So these type of adverts just make that suggestion, which is what we're doing with Playing Our Part with the BBC.

"It's asking people to just reach out, nothing grand no big gestures - sharing a cup of tea, particularly the phone call, or conversation, because it might be the only conversation that older person might have that day.

"We're asking everybody to reach out to their older friends or neighbours."

Make a difference

Speaking about the campaign, Radio Ulster's Kim Lenaghan said that while loneliness and social isolation do not only affect older people, they are a problem for many in later life.

"As neighbours and family members there are lots of things we can do to help make a difference," she said.

"The message is simple - everyone can play their part - as individuals, organisations and communities - and it is the small things that can make a huge impact."