If you have older friends or relatives who live alone, the holiday season might be tough for them, especially those who have experienced loss.

Older Australians are increasingly likely to live by themselves, and research shows that at least 13% of people aged over 65 endure loneliness, while 8% of over-65s are socially isolated – and worse, according to several studies, social isolation can increase the risk of premature death from all causes, as well as heightening the risk of dementia, heart disease and stroke.

According to Dr Whitney Carlson, a geriatrics psychiatrist at University of Washington School of Medicine in the US, one of the most important things you can do for your older friends who may be isolated is to reach out and make contact.

This particular time of year for seniors is difficult because many seniors live away from their families.

“They often can’t gather, or the people they want to be with aren’t here anymore. The key is just to take an interest, I think, because most people just feel invisible.

“I think we can all go along in our little bubbles and our own small social circles, but I think the altruistic thing to do is to care about everybody in the society, and that includes people that need a little help, whether they know it or not,” she said.

It may only seem like a small kindness to give an older friend or relative a call on Christmas Day – but it could do more for them than you know.