NEW Forest celebrity Dame Esther Rantzen has urged everyone to help support older people through their weeks of reduced social contact.

The founder of the charity Silver Line, which is designed to combat loneliness in elderly people, was reacting to the government’s new advice that people over 70 should avoid unnecessary social contact.

Journalist and That's Life! presenter Dame Esther, 79, told national media: “I think what will alarm older people is the instruction that came from the prime minister saying don’t go out except to exercise, don’t even go out to the shop, stop all social contact if you possibly can.

“I think that is very difficult for a lot of older people who may rely on going out to the shop to keep well, to get the food they need, to get the medical supplies they need.

“The responsibility is on all of us. It’s for people who live near older people, it’s for people who have older people in their families Think of them and please telephone them, because that is the one form of communication that we can cheer ourselves up with, reassure ourselves and get support from without having social contact.”

She added: “I beg all the charities working in the field, whether it’s the red cross, whether it’s the RVS, whether it’s Age UK, join forces and make sure that nobody is starving to death behind locked doors because they’re not allowed any more to go out.”

She also urged older people not to be afraid to ask for help.

“I think we have a British tradition of privacy and independence but I think now older people have to ask for help if they need help. Reach out, reach out to your family. Even if they live far away they will find a way to help you.”

She also urged broadcasters to help cheer up the country in the way it did in the Second World War with comedy shows such as It’s That Man Again (ITMA).

“Remember the Second World War with ITMA. There was bracing music, there was fun to be had. Please cheer us up. This is a difficult time for all of us and for older people,” she added.