Yorkshire's elderly are skipping meals to avoid eating alone, new research shows

ALMOST a fifth of over 70s in Yorkshire who skip meals, miss out on at least one meal every single day to avoid eating on their own, new research has found.

Contact the Elderly is encouraging people to over a spare seat at the dinner table to someone who may be lonely

The research on how loneliness is affecting the appetite of older people was conducted by charity Contact the Elderly, as it partnered with Bisto to launch a new initiative aimed at bringing people together for Sunday lunch.

In total, 31 per cent of over 70s in Yorkshire say they find meals on their own so lonely they decide to skip them completely, with almost a fifth, 16 per-cent skipping a meal every single day.

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The majority, 62 per cent, feel more cheerful and have a bigger appetite when eating with family and friends.

The Yorkshire Post has been campaigning to raise awareness of the health effects of loneliness since February 2014. On the first anniversary of the campaign in February 2015, we announced the founding of Friendship Lunches at the Durham Ox pub in Crayke, inspired by the campaign. They have since been held in pubs and hotels across North and South Yorkshire, helping thousands of lonely or socially isolated older people connect with others over a meal.

Contact the Elderly, which helps lonely or isolated people get together monthly, say the initiative, Spare Chair Sunday, aims to help tackle loneliness by encouraging people to offer a spare seat at their dinner table for an older person in their community, plus a volunteer driver, who would otherwise eat alone. It was first launched in 2015 and has over 400 volunteers taking part.

In addition to the main findings, almost a quarter, 23 per cent, of older people in Yorkshire and the Humber said they only got to eat a meal with family or friends once a week.

Acting chief executive at Contact the Elderly Cliff Rich said: “We know how important sharing a meal can be in helping to tackle the complex problem of social isolation in older people. Our guests that attended Spare Chair Sunday lunches last time thoroughly enjoyed their experience and outings such as these can make a huge impact on the life of someone who might otherwise struggle to get out of the house. Last time the Spare Chair Sunday campaign led to around 1,800 older people being able to share a meal with new friends.

“Bisto is the perfect partner to help bring people together by doing something as simple as offering a chair at their Sunday dinner table.”

It has been supported by Call the Midwife actress Helen George.

She said: “Becoming a new mum has made me look at what family traditions I want to continue for my very own family. One of them is bringing the whole family together for quality time and there is no better way do this than at the dinner table.

“Unfortunately though, there are many older generations who no longer get this opportunity to share a meal with family or friends and are often eating alone. That’s why I’m really looking forward to being part of Bisto Spare Chair Sunday and offering a spare chair at mySunday roast dinner table to an older person in my local community who doesn’t have their own family to share it with.”

To sign up to Spare Chair Sunday visit www.bistotogetherproject.com