EMMERDALE actors joined volunteers at a Live at Home Scheme to highlight the problem of isolation and loneliness among older people.

John Middleton and Charlotte Bellamy chatted to elderly members at the Horsforth centre, as well as playing table tennis, serving mince pies and helping to write Christmas cards.

The stars, who play Ashley and Laurel Thomas in the TV soap, visited the session at Horsforth Central Methodist Church on Tuesday to launch the MHA’s Good Deed-Cember campaign.

The charity, which is one of the largest in Britain,was set up by the Methodist Church in 1943, and has provided services to older people for more than 70 years. It has been advising on a storyline in the soap in which Ashley has been diagnosed with dementia.

Its Good Deed-Cember campaign aims to highlight isolation and loneliness amongst older people, and show that by connecting them with local communities the growing crisis can be alleviated.

The charity says loneliness and isolation have reached epidemic levels across the country, affecting more than a million older people. It says Christmas is a particularly difficult time of year for those who have lost, or live far away from, loved ones.

The campaign will highlight this by calling on the public to remember older neighbours, friends and relatives by delivering a good deed this December and sharing it on social channels, using the hashtag #GoodDeedcember. Good deeds could be anything from addressing Christmas card envelopes, helping out with shopping, wrapping presents, baking a cake, or inviting someone for Christmas lunch.

People are also being encouraged to donate to MHA who will, in effect, deliver a good deed on their behalf (both at Christmas and for the whole year round). The money raised will provide funds for the Live At Home schemes.

A £5 donation could fund an at home festive visit from a MHA volunteer; £10 could ensure an older person goes on a Christmas shopping trip, £25 would help support a community Christmas lunch. Donations can be given via www.gooddeedcember.org.uk, by calling 0800 085 6962 or by texting DEED16 to 70070 (for a £5 donation).

MHA runs 52 community-based Live At Home schemes providing company and support for older people through initiatives such as group lunches, befriending schemes, days out and keep fit classes.

"We are thrilled to be launching our Good Deed-cember campaign this year," said Jonathan Mace, Head of Live at Home at MHA. "Loneliness and isolation is a growing problem in the UK, and one that will only get worse as we continue to live longer. At MHA we want to tackle these issues by providing schemes and projects which enable older people living alone to be actively involved in their communities."