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To end loneliness and cultivate compassion, we must stop being cowed by our children and start making demands.

I’ve learned to ask them if there’s something I want. I’ve sometimes come a cropper and been sent to Coventry for a while after I’ve read them the ‘Riot Act’ when the phone calls have lapsed, but better to make feelings known than suffer in silence.

Those relatives were never isolated, always included in everything.

Even in advanced stages of illness, geriatric wards or care homes would have been unthinkable — considered akin to the workhouse.

It was short, but it spoke volumes about the abysmal way we treat our elderly in this country.‘You can also be a long-distance granny when your family live close-by,’ she wrote.

‘I live about 25 miles from my four grandsons but so far in 2017 we have seen two of them for about three hours.’ And the final cri de coeur: ‘Just a phone call would be welcome.’As a journalist, I wanted to know more and speak to this lady, to hear her story. Having just become a grandmother — my son Elias and daughter-in-law Eva presented me with a granddaughter, Amber Ann, on November 29 — it seems to me one of the cruellest ironies of today that families can exacerbate loneliness among the elderly rather than protect them from it.

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