Published: 10:15, 27 November 2019
| Updated: 12:51, 27 November 2019
A pub near Canterbury is tackling loneliness this festive season by offering free refreshments to those experiencing social isolation.
The Tyler's Kiln in Tyler Hill is opening its doors to lonely people of all ages, inviting them to pop in for a hot drink and shortbread around their roaring fireplace, with no questions asked.
The pub is currently the picture of Yuletide cosiness - decked out in its notoriously resplendent Christmas lights.
But its philanthropic owner is hoping to spread the festive cheer to those spending the season alone.
Allister Collins said: "In Canterbury and Whitstable, over half of all those aged 75 or older live alone.
"Two-fifths of all older people say the television is their only companion and 11% have not spoken with their family, friends, or neighbours for more than a month.
"People receive meals on wheels and sometimes won't even see the people that deliver them - they just sit at home.
"We know of people in the village who are isolated, and we're hoping people bring them in.
"I remember when I was leafleting for the pub I tried to speak to them, but some are so isolated they don't even want to come to the door - you can see them sitting there inside."
Mr Collins has launched an anti-loneliness campaign along with a tear-jerking video, in a bid to raise awareness of social isolation and to tackle the problem.
"Please take their hand this Christmas, and we'll extend ours," reads the message at the end of the video, which has already been viewed thousands of times in the few days since it launched.
But Mr Collins stresses the offer is open to people of all ages.
"This isn't just elderly people," he said. "Even those who are very young are actually considered some of the loneliest.
"Isolation even costs the NHS a huge amount of money, too, as lonely people can suffer from depression and even face early death.
"All of the staff are being briefed that loneliness affects all ages - it's nothing to do with being elderly. We can feel completely lonely in a crowd.
"It's just about spreading companionship and bringing people out of their homes.
"We welcome and will look after them. We won't ask any questions.
"Christmas is a time when people feel most lonely if they're socially isolated, and it's a time when people think of others.
"If you have 100 houses down your road, there will be maybe four, five, six people who aren't speaking to people all week.
"If you know someone suffering from social isolation or loneliness this festive season, please bring them to The Tyler's Kiln and we shall welcome you with open arms and offer free teas, coffees and shortbread around our fireplace, between 11am and 5.30pm, Monday to Friday.
"Simply tell us at the bar that you have 'taken their hand' when ordering your teas and coffees and you will not be charged.
"Nobody deserves to be alone this festive season."
More by this authorLydia Chantler-Hicks