Homecare staff have welcomed the recent introduction of a new phone service that aims to provide support to isolated and vulnerable older people who may have nobody else to turn to.
The Silver Line made its nationwide debut last month ahead of the Christmas period and has been introduced with the support of a £5 million grant from the Big Lottery Fund. Originally conceived by media personality Esther Rantzen in May 2012, it is the UK's first and only freephone helpline for older people, operating 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
Its aim is to reach out to elderly individuals who may be lonely, frightened, confused or simply struggling to cope with the demands placed upon them in their lives and reluctant to ask for help. By calling the Silver Line, they can get access to helpful information and access a befriending service that can help them overcome the stigma of admitting to loneliness.
The Silver Line is working with charities and organisations such as Age UK, Contact the Elderly, Community Service Volunteering, The Samaritans and The Campaign to End Loneliness, and will function similarly to ChildLine, the phone service for abused youngsters founded in 1986.
Rantzen, the founder of both the Silver Line and ChildLine, said: "The generation that lived through the second world war, who brought up families and worked hard, now desperately need our help to prove to them that they are still valued, and that they are not alone."
It is estimated that one million calls will be taken during the first year of operation. 3,000 volunteers - known as Silver Line Friends - will be recruited during this period, working in pairs to offer support to around 12,000 individuals during this initial 12-month spell.
The benefits of having such a service available were demonstrated by the success of a pilot scheme in the north-west and north-east of England, as well as the Isle of Man and Jersey. Of the 3500 calls received, around 400 people requested Silver Line Friends.
Most callers were aged between 60 to 80 years old, with more than one-third being males, who typically find it harder to come to terms with and admit their loneliness. Calls received during the night were more likely to be requesting emotional support.
Meanwhile, during the helpline's first week of nationwide operation from November 25th to December 1st 2013, almost 8,000 calls were received, with 1,500 requesting regular befriending calls.
The number of homecare recipients benefiting from support from the Silver Line will be welcomed by healthcare professionals, due to the clear mental and emotional wellness benefits many callers are experiencing.
Rachel McGrath, Branch Manager within Medacs Healthcare's homecare division, praised the introduction of the helpline as a hugely positive development for older people and their carers.
She said: "Homecare workers play a vital role in providing one-on-one care, interaction and a certain amount of companionship to elderly people who are confined to their homes, but for practical reasons they cannot be there at all times.
"That's why services such as Silver Line are so important. They can provide vulnerable older people with the support they need 24 hours a day, ensuring they never feel alone or abandoned, even at times when nobody else is around."
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