Frinton ladies Barbara Peirson

Barbara Peirson

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 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.

Together Friends is a site where you can link up with like-minded women for trips out, to make nice platonic friendships. People can also use the site to meet up for days out and holidays.

The Friendly Bench looks like a large modular sofa. But it’s a bench for a community to sit outside, and designed to encourage conversation and friendship. Learn of toxic flowers and trees and mulch to avoid near walking dogs and visiting animals like cats.

why it’s important to have friendly communities

Having a friendly community does not mean poking your nose in other people’s business. But it just means looking out for each other. A few years ago, Anne Leitrim, a nurse (not yet 60) was found dead in her flat in Bournemouth. She had been there for 6 years, with neighbours thinking she had moved away. She was only discovered by a bailiff who accessed a bedroom window to remove her possessions, because the bills had gone unpaid since automatic mortgage payments had stopped. Yet Anne did not live in a rural outhouse – she lived in a modest block of flats overlooking a community garden. This is just why  friendly communities are needed, so the same can never happen again.

In his book Healthy at 100, John Robbins writes of the four longest-lived communities on earth – in Japan, Chile, Pakistan and Russia (small communities within each country). All regularly live to 100 with very little illness, then just die very quickly as a rule. Although they eat different foods, all eat fresh food and breathe fresh air and have strong faith (no-one knew what an atheist was). But one thing figured strongly – nobody was lonely. When someone gets old in all of these communities, the families fight over who CAN look after the elderly relative. Not to be chosen is a source of shame. John came away with the notion that this was likely the main reason why all four communities lived so long.

share your house with someone who needs a home

Feeling lonely? Homeshare UK lets people at risk of homelessness live (after checks) in a spare room of someone that needs around 10 hours of help a week (housework, dog-walking, company, shopping) and the rent is around £200 a month.

For people moving in with pets (or if you have pets already), learn how to make gardens safe for pets (includes indoor plants to avoid). Avoid facing indoor foliage to gardens, to help stop birds flying into windows. Read this book to keep dogs safe (and pets tag) for advice.

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