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BBC viewers in tears as elderly man who has spent last 20 Christmases alone is surprised with a tree and carols

The Independent logo The Independent 12/12/2019 Sabrina Barr
a person holding a nintendo wii controller © Provided by The Independent

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BBC Breakfast viewers have praised a “moving” and “heartwarming” segment of Thursday morning’s show, which saw an elderly man who has spent the last 20 years alone on Christmas be surprised with a Christmas tree and a carol performance.

On Wednesday, a 78-year-old man called Terrence was interviewed by presenter Dan Walker about the loneliness he has experienced over the years.

The following day, Walker decided to pay Terrence a visit at his home in Oldham, Greater Manchester, to learn more about his story and to deliver a few festive surprises.

Terrence explained that this year will be the first in two decades that he has company on Christmas Day, as he is spending the day with a good friend he met through his charitable work with Age UK, a 90-year-old woman called Nancy who suffers from dementia.


He told Walker that he used to go round to his mother’s house on 25 December, bringing with him a cooked meal and presents that he would wrap up in parcels and place in a pillowcase.

“One day, I’ll never forget her saying to me, ‘Without you bringing me my presents for Christmas I wouldn’t have any presents, would I?’ And I often think about that now. You know, people on their own now don’t get any presents from people,” Terrence said.

He told Walker that he is looking forward to spending Christmas with his friend Nancy, explaining that he has experience being in the company of people with dementia through his work with Age UK.


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“I always think with anything, unless you’ve actually been there, you don’t know what it’s like. I didn’t know what it was like to have depression until I got it,” the pensioner stated.

Having previously told Walker that he does not have a Christmas tree, Walker decided to rectify the situation with help from students from the nearby Oldham College.

The television presenter opened the door to let a group of students in, who brought with them an ornately-decorated Christmas tree.

a man standing in a room: Terrence shakes hands with Oldham College students who have brought him a Christmas tree (BBC Breakfast) © Provided by The Independent Terrence shakes hands with Oldham College students who have brought him a Christmas tree (BBC Breakfast)

Terrence immediately appeared overcome by emotion as he rose from his chair to thank the students and shake their hands.

The elderly man was comforted by Walker as he expressed his gratitude through his tears, dabbing his eyes with a tissue.

However, that wasn’t the only surprise Walker had in store for him.

a man holding a wii remote in his hand: Dan Walker comforts Terrence (BBC Breakfast) © Provided by The Independent Dan Walker comforts Terrence (BBC Breakfast)

After asking Terrence what his favourite carol is – to which he answered “Silent Night” – Walker opened the front door to reveal Oldham College’s choir, who performed an affecting rendition of the Christmas song.

Terrence stood in his doorway in awe, continuing to wipe away his tears as Walker stood behind him.

a person standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: Terrence weeps as he and BBC’s Dan Walker listen to the carolers sing (BBC Breakfast) © Provided by The Independent Terrence weeps as he and BBC’s Dan Walker listen to the carolers sing (BBC Breakfast)

Several Twitter users expressed their joy over Terrence’s festive surprises.

“This is just amazing... I’m on the train blubbering away,” tweeted Olympic-winning former hockey player Sam Quek.

“In absolute tears on the tube. What a beautiful man and truly fabulous thing to do,” another Twitter user wrote.

Someone else praised Walker for “highlighting the pain of loneliness for so many”.

a group of people standing in a room: Terrence listens to carolers from Oldham College singing ‘Silent Night’ (BBC Breakfast) © Provided by The Independent Terrence listens to carolers from Oldham College singing ‘Silent Night’ (BBC Breakfast)

According to Age UK, more than 200,000 elderly people are expected to spend Christmas alone this year.

The charity’s research revealed that more than three-quarters of people over the age of 65 believe the first Christmas after losing someone you love is the hardest, with up to 170,000 older people soon to face their first Christmas without their spouse.

“Getting older brings new challenges – receiving a life-threatening diagnosis like dementia, losing the person who’s been your rock your whole life or struggling to manage the stairs in the only place that feels like home,” said Age UK ambassador Dame Helen Mirren.

“To make matters worse, so many who are struggling have nobody to help them.”

For confidential advice or information on money, health or care for the elderly, you can contact Age UK by calling 0800 678 1602. Alternatively, you can send an email to

Gallery: Celebrities who support Age UK (Photos)

Our Christmas Together Appeal proudly supports Age UK and The Children’s Society who are providing vital services to society’s most vulnerable this festive season. Because no one should feel alone. Together we can make a big difference. Join us here.


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