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This heartbreaking holiday ad is a powerful reminder of old people’s loneliness

German supermarket chain Edeka put out an advertisement showing a lonely grandfather who wants to bring his family together for the holidays. (Video: YouTube/Edeka)

Witnessing an elderly person eating a meal alone is a heartwrenching sight. It’s almost as emotionally devastating as imagining a person all alone for the holidays.

Put those two scenarios together and it’s almost too much to bear.

A German grocery store went straight for the emotional gut punch with a new ad this week, a heartbreaking portrayal of an old man abandoned by his too busy family at Christmas. It’s already been viewed more than 10 million times on YouTube.

[‘I feel so alone’: 95-year-old man calls into radio show to talk about missing his wife]

The Edeka ad opens with an old man carrying groceries inside and then hearing a voicemail from his daughter that her family can’t make it for Christmas this year. It shows him looking wistfully out the window at another old man being greeted by his grandchildren. It then shows him alone at the dinner table eating a home-cooked meal, in three different outfits, suggesting it’s been several years that his family hasn’t been with him for the holidays.

His three grown children then receive a note that their father has died. They tearfully leave their high-powered, metropolitan lives to return to their small town for the funeral. When they enter their father’s home they see a dining table fully set, candles aglow, and a decorated Christmas tree. Their father emerges from the kitchen.

“How else could I have brought you all together?” he asks, sadly.

The commercial ends with them sitting around the table eating and laughing together. The tagline is: “It’s time to come home.”

Because the holiday season is so closely associated with family and joy, for many it can exacerbate feelings of loneliness. The charity AgeUK launched a fundraiser last month to raise awareness about elder loneliness at Christmas, and year-round. Another UK group, Friends of the Elderly, is also raising money to combat elderly loneliness around the holidays. A £25 donation will pay for an elderly person to attend a lunch and Christmas party.

In the UK, which does a lot of work around elderly loneliness, it’s estimated that one million older people will go an entire month without speaking to another person. A BBC survey last year found that 10 percent of people over 65 years of age planned to spend Christmas alone. And another survey found half a million people over 75 years of age would spend the holiday alone. Most said it was because they didn’t want to be a burden to their families.

The German advertisement is resonating deeply with people as they contemplate their holiday plans, and whether their elderly relative is part of them.

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