A CARE boss has urged residents to support the hundreds of elderly people in West Oxfordshire at risk of loneliness this Christmas.

Dinah Madelin, director of in-home care provider Caremark West Oxfordshire & Cherwell, has written a guide on how to help loved ones who might feel isolated during the festive period.

In 2011, 1,265 people of pension age lived alone in Witney, according to Oxfordshire's District Data Service, based at Oxford City Council.

Of those, 962 were without access to personal transport, limiting independence and human interaction and leaving them at risk of loneliness.

These numbers are rising and Ms Madelin believes residents at risk of feeling alone are particularly vulnerable at Christmas.

She said: "This time of year tends to make people more aware of loneliness.

"People might normally visit day centres in the middle of the week, but, with Christmas on a Tuesday, these places will be shut on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

"That's another few days without seeing their friends. It's a very vulnerable sector of society."

The Charlbury resident set up Caremark West Oxfordshire & Cherwell eight years ago, with the service offering home care, personal support, home help and companionship services.

This includes ensuring its hundreds of elderly clients do not feel lonely and Ms Madelin's guide complements this.

The document is available from Caremark's office on Woodstock High Street and encourages people to combat the issue by spotting the signs of loneliness and regularly interacting with those who might be alone.

This could be through organising day trips, suggesting community groups or coffee mornings, or even helping make small alterations to loved ones' lives, the guide explains.

Ms Madelin, who was previously a nurse at Chipping Norton hospital, said: "Otherwise, they've got the same mundane four walls to look at.

"With the best will in the world, families don't always get together and if your partner isn't around anymore you can be more aware of your situation."

"If someone's coming in regularly and being friendly then it can make a real difference."

The proportion of 'older people' in West Oxfordshire is three per cent, compared to a national average of two per cent, according to figures from the 2011 census.

By 2039, the number of people aged 85 or older in the district is expected to reach 8,300 - a huge seven per cent of the population.

This will increase demand on organisations like Caremark, whose carers visit up to 70 residents in Witney and the surrounding villages alone.

Among its clients is 96-year-old Cicely, who is visited by carers at her Woodstock home three times every day.

Cicely's daughter lives nearby but is only able to see her twice a week, meaning Caremark staff are a hugely important source of interaction.

She said: "I used to have a neighbour that came to see me but now it's only the carers and my daughter twice a week.

"They're wonderful people and the girls that come to see me are lovely."

To pick up a copy of the guide, visit Caremark's store on 30a, High Street, Woodstock, OX20 1TG, or email dinah.madelin@caremark.co.uk