The Silver Line is a wonderful free telephone service run by charity Age Co, where volunteers provide friendship and conversation 24 hours a day (7 days a week) to anyone over 55 who is feeling isolated or lonely. A wonderful way for nonstop chatterboxes to help their community, many people (especially if they are widowed or disabled) often don’t see people for days. And although some people like to be alone, many others like a bit of company, if only for a cup of tea and chat over the phone.
All calls are confidental (all calls are recorded for training and safeguarding, just in case there is a legal or safety concern). So you can speak to someone you trust, even if it’s the middle of the night, and you can’t sleep and want to talk to someone.
Unlike years ago, many families are now ‘nuclear’ (relatives can live hundreds of miles away or even abroad). And unlike yesteryear, smaller families often mean that many older people are quite isolated, once their nearest and dearest have passed. England also has many befriending networks, where volunteers can visit you in person (or accompany you to trips out or even the doctor).
If you are older or disabled and unable to walk your dog, volunteer dog walkers can help (and also offer pet-sitting, pet taxis or fostering if you have to go into hospital). If you’ve lost an animal friend, Blue Cross offers a free phone bereavement service, run by trained counsellors who can listen when you need a friend who understands.
If you need help on other issues, call Age Co Advice Line where experts can advise on financial and mental health issues, plus age-related issues like winter heating allowances, housing associations and care homes. Be sure to use an online benefits calculator (or have someone do it for you). Many older and disabled people are unaware they are entitled to a lot more than they get (often with 3 months backpay if you didn’t know, but you have to ask, as it’s not given automatically). Lack of access to the Internet often means the most vulnerable have no idea they are entitled to a lot more income than they are receiving at present.