Grandparents should be taken on family holidays, the minister responsible for tackling loneliness has said.
Mims Davies said British people could learn from how Mediterranean nations involve grandparents in their lives.
The new sport and civil society minister told the Sunday Telegraph that communities had a “moral duty” to stop the elderly feeling abandoned.
A 2017 report said loneliness was as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Ms Davies, who was appointed following the resignation of Tracey Crouch in November, said: “Very often you will be out on holiday – a few of you in a small British family – and you will find this huge, wonderful plethora of people on the beach.
“And you will think, ‘God, doesn’t that look fun?’
“We are just a little bit blinkered. We have decided that we should box ourselves in a bit.
“I think when we are a little bit more bold about how we do things, we find so much more joy in it.”
Ms Davies, a former carer, said that being present for the final part of her parents’ lives was something she would “never regret”.
She added: “We are in a weird place when we are very willing to drag our children around into our lives and enjoy our lives with them together – but being that sort of extended family is seen as being a bit more difficult.”
Ms Davies wants employers to give staff more time off to look after lonely relatives – in a similar way to how reservists get time away to serve with the Armed Forces.
She said people should be able to “have an honest and open conversation with your employer about what is your work-life balance”.
The Commission on Loneliness was set up by the murdered MP Jo Cox and the government launched its first loneliness strategy in October.
How to help lonely elderly people
- Start a conversation. Stop and talk. Don’t hurry them.
- Offer practical help, such as shopping, posting a letter, picking up prescriptions or walking their dog
- Offer to accompany them or give them a lift to medical appointments, the library, hairdressers or faith services
- Share your time – volunteer with an organisation that has befriending services matching you with an isolated elderly person for home visits or regular phone calls
- Help with household tasks – offer to take out the rubbish, change light bulbs, clear snow, put up pictures
- Share a meal – take round an extra plate of hot home-cooked food or a frozen portion