For most of us, Christmas is a time for family, food, and ill-considered gifts. It is a time of year that we spend laughing, joking, and occasionally bickering with our nearest and dearest.

But, for some older people, this is all too commonly not the case, not only during the festive period, but all year round.

According to a survey by charity Contact the Elderly, one third of people have noticed a lonely older person near them, while 66% believe loneliness is a problem in their town.

Worryingly, just under half of us don’t know how to help a lonely older person, so with that in mind here are 10 ways to alleviate loneliness this Christmas:

1. Sign up for Contact the Elderly’s tea parties

Once a month, the charity runs Sunday tea parties all across the nation. They are a great chance for older people to chat to people their age and the service is free.

2. Join a friendship centre…

Age UK organise opportunities to do a wide range of activities from rambling to pub lunches with similarly active older people.

3. … or an older person’s forum

Over 55s make up a fifth of the population and these forums are an opportunity to get involved in local campaigning to improve things for older people. They also throw in some social activities on the side!

[Read more: Being lonely can affect your health]

4. Get in touch with your artistic side

Lots of local community centres offer art classes for older people and they are a great way to exercise some creativity.

5. Find your local gym…

Gyms provide specialised workouts to keep older people healthy and active and there is strong evidence that keeping fit fights off a whole host of potential health issues.

6. … or, if you prefer a more relaxed social experience, a lunch club

The Royal Voluntary Service runs 450 lunch clubs across the country that all deliver a cooked lunch and an opportunity to socialise.

7. Speak to The Silver Line

All calls to this helpline (0800 470 80 90) are free, and the specially trained team offer advice, links to things going on in your area, or just a friendly chat.

8. Give the University of the Third Age a go

U3A is a volunteer organisation that gives older people the chance to enrol on one of their 300 courses. The courses span from art, to languages, to history and it’s just like university, just without the exams.

9. Learn to love technology

As families become more spread around the country (and the globe), there has never been a better time to get hands on with tech. Skype, WhatsApp and FaceTime all allow you to stay in touch better and there are lots of courses available to help you get to grips with your computer or mobile.

10. Get to know your library

Not only is reading a way to keep the mind active, but many libraries put on activity days and theatre groups aimed to get older people involved in the local community.

How do you stave off loneliness? Tell us in the comments box below