The Silver Line Helpline for older people.
Dame Esther Rantzen described her feelings as a widow living alone for the first time at the age of 71. As a result Ellen wrote to her to describe her own feelings of loneliness.
“I can’t get out on my own due to health problems, so it can be as much as 3 days I go without talking to anyone… I dread the winter nights when everything seems to close in around me and I feel so isolated. I am an optimist by nature and sometimes I need that to get through another pointless day where I feel as if I am a waste of space.”
The reality is that older people should be valued as a tremendous asset to society. If, like Ellen, they become isolated and vulnerable, it is the nation’s responsibility to make older people feel valued, to include them, empower them, and connect them back to their communities. And that is what we hope The Silver Line Helpline will achieve.
Some vulnerable older people are so isolated they are extremely hard to reach. And there is a huge unmet demand for advice and friendship.
In the first year of operation, The Silver Line Helpline received 275,000 calls, 53% of callers saying they had literally no-one else to speak to. We now receive almost 1500 calls every day from lonely and isolated older people.
- The Helpline is free of charge, confidential and open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Some of our busiest days are weekends, bank holidays, Easter and Christmas Day
- 2100 trained volunteers make weekly friendship calls to an older person once a week.
- We have 2694 older people receiving weekly friendship calls
- 67% of our callers contact the helpline because they are lonely or isolated.
- 88% of our callers live alone and 54% say they have no else to speak to at all!
Older people tell us that speaking to our team at any time, day or night, gives them security, and something to look forward to. Many said that the small hours of the night, and the long hours of Sundays were very bleak, if you are alone.
One gentleman told us, “When I get off the phone, I feel like I belong to the human race.” And a lady said that, thanks to the regular calls she receives from her Silver Line Friend, she no longer feels “shuffled under the carpet.”
When ChildLine was launched, it uncovered the shocking prevalence of abuse and neglect among our children. The Silver Line Helpline has revealed a truth about our older people which is just as shattering. The stigma attached to admitting loneliness, the reluctance in older people to ask for help because “there are so many other people far worse off than I am” and “I don’t want to be a burden” has meant that we have ignored and neglected the deep unhappiness created by loneliness, which is afflicting so many elderly people.
If you would like to call our helpline to have a chat or to arrange a regular weekly call from a Silverline Friend please call our helpline on 0800 4 70 80 90