THE heartwarming story of a little girl who befriends the man on the moon has prompted a flood of new volunteers who want to reach out to isolated older people in York.

Age UK organisers in York say they have seen as many new volunteers come forward in a few days as usually sign up in a month, and they have put the interest down to John Lewis' Christmas advert.

The ad tells the tale of a little girl who makes friends with an old man who lives alone on the moon, and after it first aired on Friday York's Age UK office heard from 14 people interested in becoming "befriending" volunteers in just three days. Befriending service manager Lis Rammage said they would usually see that number of inquiries over a month.

She said: "It's great because it's advertising we don't normally do.

"People are volunteering for the befriending service because it links very well into that person to person connection, and the idea of going out to an older person who is isolated and making a difference to them."

New volunteers at Age UK all go through training as well as criminal record checks, which means it can take weeks or months before new befrienders are up and running.

But, Lis added, they need volunteers to help out all year round.

She said: "It's human nature that people do not want to see someone lonely over Christmas, but I do not want to see someone lonely at any time of the year.

"What we are looking for is support all through the year."

Chief officer Sally Hutchinson said they will welcome volunteers beyond Christmas, especially through the winter months when bad weather could mean more older people have to stay at home.

As well as the befriending service, Age UK in York runs day clubs and carers support services, helps people coming out of hospital, and organises volunteers who can help older people keep their pets, get their shopping in, and look after their homes - and they need volunteers to help with all those services.

They can also help people find out what services and events are on over Christmas for older people who may be isolated or alone over the festive period. Fore more information contact York's Age UK information helpline on 01904 634061.