The purpose of this paper is to describe the work of the new, free telephone helpline The Silver Line in empowering older people to overcome social isolation and loneliness, and where appropriate refer cases of abuse and neglect to specialist services.
Beginning with a family member's description of how the helpline made a difference to her relative this paper then outlines the rationale, methods and outcomes of The Silver Line, including a role it may play in reducing demand for NHS services.
The paper highlights that social isolation and loneliness can be tackled through a helpline which leaves control firmly in the hands of callers while offering them a gateway to activities and services.
It seems that telephone contact is a particularly helpful way for isolated people to begin to build social contact given that there is evidence of a stigma associated with admitting to loneliness.
Given a straightforward way to connect to others, people are empowered to overcome their own loneliness, improve their well-being and sometimes to rejoin their community. The charity reports that callers to the helpline may themselves become volunteer befrienders (“Silver Line Friends”) providing support to others and gaining evidence of their own value to society. In addition, a friendly chat over the phone can be an enabling link to gaining new skills, such as computer literacy, which may otherwise seem out of reach or irrelevant.
The paper emphasises the importance of this helpline specifically and the wider need for hard to reach, isolated older people to have an accessible stepping stone to greater social contact and a higher quality of life.
Thanks to the staff at The Silver Line and Dr Samantha Callan at The Centre for Social Justice for their support in researching this paper.
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