Esther Rantzen, 72, has launched a new telephone service aiming to help older people combat isolation.
Based on the success of Childline, The Silver Line has been trialled in the Isle of Man this year ahead of the launch, to offer support and help over the phone, aiming to break the stigma of loneliness.
The Silver Line Helpline, and on-line services, (1-2-1 chat, emails and message board) provides three functions to support older people:
- a sign-posting service to link them into the many, varied services that exist around the country;
- a befriending service to combat loneliness;
- and a means of empowering those who may be suffering abuse and neglect, if appropriate to transfer them to specialist services such as Action on Elder Abuse, in order to protect them from harm.
There are 10 million older people (over the age of 65) living in Britain today. Many of them (51 per cent of people over 75) are living alone. Those working in the statutory and the voluntary sector are deeply concerned about the impact of isolation and loneliness on older people, because it has been shown to shorten life, creating depression, hastening the onset of dementia, and causing physical effects such as malnutrition.
And yet there are many services around the country which could counteract these effects, if older people were linked into them. 40% of older people, according to a 2011 survey do not know where to turn.
Liberal Democrat MP and former health minister Paul Burstow, explained the Department of Health’s help and backing for the service.