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Heartbreaking commercial highlights the pain of loneliness
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A new commercial highlights the pain of spending the holidays alone. - photo by Kelsey Dallas
Each year, hundreds of thousands of elderly adults spend the holidays alone, perhaps because they've lost touch with friends or have family members who won't or can't drop by and visit.

A new commercial from German supermarket chain Edeka illustrates the pain of this situation by showing an older man who fakes his own death to ensure that his children will come home for Christmas.

"How else could I have brought you all together?" he asks, when he surprises his mourning family.

The ad, which has more than 30 million views on YouTube, has sparked discussions of elderly loneliness, which can have severe health consequences.

"Being alone and feeling lonely increases your chances of early death by roughly 30 percent," CNN reported earlier this year, in its coverage of a research study on the emotion.

Aging often leads to social isolation because it affects mobility. Additionally, retired people have fewer reasons to leave the house regularly.

Technologies like smartphones and video-messaging services have made it easier for older people to keep in touch with friends and family members, but these web-based interactions aren't as socially valuable as face-to-face bonding, as Deseret News National reported in October.

"Retired people need to be as proactive about scheduling in-person meet-ups as they are about taking medicine or eating healthy foods," said Alan Teo, assistant professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health & Science University, to the Deseret News.

The new holiday ad has gone viral because it confirms many people's deepest fears about how lonely their older loved ones sometimes feel, noted many commentators.

"Because the holiday season is so closely associated with family and joy, for many it can exacerbate feelings of loneliness," The Washington Post reported. "The German advertisement is resonating deeply with people as they contemplate their holiday plans, and whether their elderly relative is part of them."