According to the Campaign To End Loneliness, isolation is one of the most significant health concerns we face. As human beings, we tend to thrive when connected to others – being always alone for most people is isolating and can cause mental health issues.
In our latest charity focus, we look at the incredible work of The Silver Line. This charity aims to overcome the social problems that can come with loneliness among older people (frequently caused by restricted mobility) by helping them connect with others.
A 2018 study by Age UK suggested the number of over 50s experiencing loneliness would reach 2 million within the next five years. Half a million older people go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone, with 59% of over 85s and 38% of over 75s now living alone. These numbers are bound to be more than this in the current era of the global pandemic.
Clearly, there is a real need to be aware of the risks of isolation among all age groups, but specifically older generations. While for some, buying mobility aids can help, as certain walking aids enable people to get back out and about however, this isn’t the case for many. This is why an organisation that looks to mitigate isolation is so important.
The Silver Line was started in 2012 by Esther Rantzen, after the death of her beloved husband. She was instrumental in getting the charity the publicity it needed to really start making a difference, bringing human interactions and specifically, conversations, right into our home, where we feel most comfortable.
How does The Silver Line charity help with loneliness and restricted mobility?
At the heart of The Silver Line charity is a helpline for older people. It offers guidance and advice on everything from TV licenses to bus passes and care concerns. It’s also possible to get information on groups, activities and meetings in your local area, making it far easier to stay connected to others if you can get out and about (remembering, of course, current social distancing guidelines for your region).
People are also invited to call just for a conversation and can be referred to volunteers who are on hand for regular, ongoing friendship chats over the phone. This is a great idea – answering a need for genuine contact, not just passing conversations, which is an intrinsic aspect of being a human being. Over time, a relationship forms between the callers that does not rely on travel, but still gives people the chance to “meet” and get to know someone new, an experience that many of us relish, but often becomes less frequent as we get older.
Silver Circles for loneliness and restricted mobility
For some, getting older doesn’t mean losing all contact with people outside their home as in many cases, we still get to see children and grandchildren. In contrast, it’s the contact with peers from our own generation that can become more difficult as priorities, circumstances and mobility change over time.
We all know how important it is to have people around who understand where we’re coming from, and this is where The Silver Line Charity’s Silver Circles can once again help. These facilitated group calls include between six and eight people, all of whom share similar interests. The idea is participants get to discuss topics together as they would in a pub, restaurant or café.
Admirably, considering a significant contributor to isolation is also the financial cost of travel, all calls are paid for by The Silver Line, making this a great example of a truly accessible, life-changing free service for those who need it. An initiative made even more remarkable by the fact we’ve not really come across much like it in the past, despite the relative simplicity of the concept.
What The Silver Line tells us about loneliness and restricted mobility
As our blog on smart devices explains, technology is making it easy to stay in touch with the people we love. It also means we can keep up with the hobbies, interests and issues we care about most, from the comfort of our chair, bed or just about anywhere else.
Of course, in normal, non-pandemic times, people are encouraged to get out and about as much as they can, with or without a mobility aid such as a tri-walker or rollator, if additional support is required. Going to the shops, or popping into a local café, brings contact with others helping to alleviate some feelings of isolation. However, particularly whilst we are all learning to live alongside the Coronavirus, this isn’t always possible, so The Silver Line is even more valuable than ever.
If you wish to support the charity, why not visit their website, www.thesilverline.org.uk, you can help by volunteering or donating. It’s certainly a most worthwhile cause.