LONELINESS is a depressing fact of life for some of the 10,000 people over the age of 65 who live alone in the borough.

Now Age UK Mid Mersey, which champions the causes of the elderly from its headquarters at the Mansion House in Victoria Park, is seeking Star readers’ help to reassure those who feel isolated that they are a valued part of the community.

At present the charity has 28 active volunteers but with 49 lonely people on its befriending/telefriending service waiting list it cannot meet the demand for help.

The problem could become more severe in the years to come, with health officials forecasting that by 2020 there will be 37,500 people aged 65 and older. That will be a leap of more than 5,000 from 2012.

Julia Webster, Age UK Mid Mersey’s services director, said: “Loneliness is a massive problem, in particular for those over 75.

“It can be a major contributor to a number of conditions such as depression, dementia and overall wellbeing.

“Studies have shown that older people who are actively engaged within their communities are not only likely to live longer, but will almost certainly have a better quality of life for the remaining years – staying well for longer.

“Our Don’t be a Stranger campaign is the first step to getting the people of St Helens to recognise that older people living in their midst might be lonely.”

Age UK is working closely with St Helens Council and local voluntary sector agencies.

They are committed to helping older people be active and feel part of the community – and the community is asked to pledge to make a positive impact on addressing loneliness.

Actions which could make a difference might be saying “hello” to an elderly neighbour, contacting older relatives, taking a neighbour’s bin out, volunteering for a befriending scheme or making a donation to Age UK.

Anyone affected by loneliness can contact Age UK Mid Mersey, at 24-28 Claughton Street, on 01744 454530 or by email via enquiries@aukmm.org.uk.

Anyone interested in becoming a befriending volunteer can call Age UK’s HR department on 01928 575400.