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Loneliness charity received record number of calls from older people over summer

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A charity that provides a helpline and friendship services to combat loneliness has received its highest volume of calls in one month since launching, warning that the summer can be as “equally challenging” as the winter for older people.

The Silver Line charity said it took more than 45,000 calls from older people in August – up from 43,800 the year before, and the highest ever in a month – which equates to more than one a minute.

“The helpline typically receives around 10% more calls during July and August”

Alan Walsh

Since its inception in November 2013, the organisation, which offers services to people aged 55 and over, has been contacted more than 1.5 million times, with around 80% being new to the service.

Around 4% of these calls are due to referrals made by staff based in GP practices, while 6% are from healthcare professionals, including nurses, working across other services.

The charity noted that its average daily call volumes over the summer outstripped those during the week of Christmas in 2016.

Older people getting in contact with the charity said the summer “can be an equally challenging time” as the winter months, according to head of the organisation’s helpline, Alan Walsh.

“Having someone to chat to who shares some of your interests…can really help a person”

Melanie Keily

“The helpline typically receives around 10% more calls during July and August from people whose family and friends have gone away – along with the usual faces that they see day in, day out such as the postman, or shopkeeper or their GP – turning their local community into a ghost town,” he said.

The charity highlighted that loneliness could have a negative impact on a person’s health and was associated with depression and dementia.

It is now urgently appealing for public donations to prepare for further increases in calls this Christmas – in particular to fund night and weekend services, when two thirds of calls are made.

Melanie Keily, a nurse dual qualified in learning disabilities and mental health nursing based at Nottingham Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, who also volunteers with the Silver Line, said it was important to signpost services to combat social isolation.

“As a mental health nurse I know that loneliness can have a negative impact on your mental health. Having someone to chat to who shares some of your interests, hobbies or pastimes can really help a person who is perhaps isolated from friends or family,” she said.

“All the signs are that Christmas 2017 promises to be yet another record for us – sadly”

 Sophie Andrews

The Silver Line’s chief executive, Sophie Andrews, stressed the need for more donations ahead of the winter.

“Last Christmas the helpline was overwhelmed by the number of callers – which exceeded our most generous projections – and unfortunately left over 5,000 callers entirely on their own when they desperately needed someone to talk to, at a time most of the nation spends enjoying the company of friends and family,” she said.

“All the signs are that Christmas 2017 promises to be yet another record for us – sadly – but in order to cope with the anticipated spike in call volumes, and avoid a repeat of last year’s scenario, we urgently need further funding,” she added.

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