The Echo is urging people to help Age UK, particularly by getting involved with its befriending service, which puts volunteers in contact with lonely older people.
The charity estimates in Sunderland there are 42,771 people aged 60 and over who could be classed as lonely or socially isolated. Of those, some 9,982 are over 80.
In the city, Age UK’s telephone companionship service has had contact with 309 people via 26 volunteers while its home-visiting service has had contact with 158 people via 48 volunteers.
“We hope as many Echo readers as possible will get behind the campaign.
“If they can spare a couple of hours a week to provide friendship to an elderly person on their own, it would make all the difference to that person and make their Christmas a happier time.
“We all like to give gifts at Christmas, but giving a little of our time to others who are alone is also a great thing to do.”