'I was lonely, I used to cry'
18 October 2013 Last updated at 08:50 BST
The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, will warn later that it is a source of "national shame" that hundreds of thousands of elderly people are chronically lonely.
He is due to tell a conference in Harrogate that entering old age "should not involve waving goodbye to one's dignity".
Winifred Green, an 88-year-old who lives on her own, told the Today programme how she experienced isolation last year when her family were abroad.
She remembered a time when she was "very, very lonely".
"I used to cry... I didn't know what to do with myself," she said.
First broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Friday 18 October 2013.