FEW days pass by without hearing news snippets of our impending doom as an ageing population.

Off the cuff jokes about retiring in our 80s, a social care crisis reaching bubbling point, and worries over state pensions are unfortunately par for the course these days.

Yet another negative consequence of living a longer life is the loss of social circles and regular companionship. The safety net of family and friends can get more and more delicate as we age, until feelings of isolation become the daily companion.

New research suggests that almost three quarters of older people in the UK are lonely and more than half of those have never spoken to anyone about how they feel.

It's a sad and worrying trend affecting older people, particularly as increasing frailty and deteriorating health makes getting out and about to see people more and more difficult.

With loneliness found to increase your risk of premature death by up to a quarter - as harmful for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day - it's an issue that needs to be addressed.

We can all be guilt of living very insular lives. When jobs and social commitments can take up so much time, it's easy to get into the habit of sticking our heads down and marching through the week.

Hence why charities have taken a stance to combat the issue, from Age UK with their heart rendering John Lewis Christmas advert, to Help the Aged, there are a number or organisations fighting the good fight.

One such charity asks very simply, would you open your home up for lonely OAPs for tea?

Instead of donating money or fundraising, they're getting to the heart of the issue, asking individuals to donate their time.

Contact the Elderly are calling on those of us who are able to accommodate a tea party in our homes, to host one for a small group of people. All that is required is a bit tea pot, seats for those attending and an accessible ground floor bathroom.

The same group of over 75's will attend one tea party a month, though the hosts need only commit to one or two a year.

Despite such a small responsibility, the positive outcomes of these meet ups speak for themselves.

After finding that Sunday afternoons are a particularly lonely day for older people, transporting them to a place where they can have a change of scene over tea, cake and conversation with a regular group is proven to have huge benefits.

With 80 per cent of people feeling less lonely as a result and 96 per cent saying they now feel they have something to look forward to, it goes to show the healing power of tea, cake and conversation.

Whether you want to refer someone to join a tea party or host one yourself, find out the established West Dunbartonshire groups or how to set one up by visiting www.contact-the-elderly.org.uk