Steve Chu, chief executive of AGE UK Sheffield

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Have you got plans for this evening?

How about this weekend?

Maybe you’re looking forward to enjoying sport or leisure activities with friends, or perhaps catching up with family.

For many of us there just aren’t enough hours in the day to spend time with everyone we’d like to.

But now consider this – nearly half of the over-65 population counts either a pet or their television as their main source of company.

Seventeen per cent of them see their family, friends or neighbours less than once a week – in Sheffield alone this equates to around 17,000 of our older community.

These are heart-breaking findings about the isolation in which some older people live.

Research shows that loneliness has a health impact, too.

One study showed that people with a high degree of loneliness were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Others suggest the health impact is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes per day or being morbidly obese.

The Jo Cox Commission for Loneliness is trying to change this, and Age UK Sheffield wants to play its part locally.

Jo is the former Labour MP who was tragically murdered last summer.

She founded the commission before her death, and it is now being taken forward by Labour MP Rachel Reeves and Conservative MP Seema Kennedy.

So, what can you do to help?

Well, small things make a huge difference:

n Here’s a checklist I’d encourage everyone in Sheffield to have a look at.

n If you haven’t spoken to your older relative or friend for a while, why not give them a call to see how they are?

n If your neighbour lives alone and is struggling to get out and about, maybe you could invite them round to your house for a cup of tea or a chat.

n Consider becoming a Friend of Age UK Sheffield. All our friends receive a quarterly calendar with details of social events where they can meet new people.

n If you’d like more contact with other older people and use your skills, maybe you could volunteer with us?

n You could answer phones in our office, give information to other older people, or perhaps visit or phone other people we work with.

n If you’d like more information about our work with people aged 50 and over in Sheffield, visit www.ageuksheffield.org.uk or call us on 0114 2502850.