Free helpline launched for lonely over-65s

25 November 2013
Silver Line, a free 24-hour telephone service for elderly people, was today launched by Esther Rantzen, pictured.

The service aims to tackle loneliness in the over-65s by providing friendship, information and advice via trained volunteers.

Television presenter and campaigner Esther, 73, has spoken about her own loneliness after the death of her husband, the TV producer Desmond Wilcox. After her revelation she was inundated with letters thanking her for speaking out, with many people describing their own feelings of isolation. As a result, 27 years after launching the groundbreaking Childline service, Esther set up The Silver Line, backed by a £5 million grant from the Big Lottery Fund. 

Speaking about her new venture, Esther said: "We will signpost them [the elderly] to the services in their community, and by showing them we value them and care about them we will restore their confidence and feelings of self-worth."

She added: "It is tragic that older people are so undervalued and isolated that they believe life is not worth living and that they are no longer part of the human race."

Within its first year the Silver Line hopes to recruit 3,250 volunteers, matching more than 12,000 elderly people to a befriender who will call them for a weekly chat. Running in parallel will be the 24-hour Silver Line helpline, offering a friendly voice, support and information 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

More than half of all 75 year olds in the UK live alone and one in ten suffers “intense” loneliness but is reluctant to ask for help. Last year, the Campaign to End Loneliness estimated that more than a million people in the UK feel trapped in their homes and around five million older people consider television their main form of company. Christmas is often the loneliest time of year for older people.

Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb said: "In our busy lives we too easily forget the thousands of older people who often go for days without seeing or speaking to anyone, or rely on the television for company.

"This service will help provide people with the companionship and support they deserve in their older years."

  • Visit The Silver Line website
  • Calls to The Silver Line are free from a landline : 0800 4 70 80 90 D
  • Donate to The Silver Line by texting 'Silver' followed by the amount you wish to donate to 70500, so if you want to donate £10 text Silver10.
  • Follow The Silver Line on Twitter @TheSilverLineUK
  • If you are interested in becoming a Silver Line volunteer, email


Download our free poster highlighting the issue of loneliness in the elderly at Christmas. 

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