Esther Rantzen on The Silver Line - her new helpline for the elderly
As you are aware, Esther, 73, set up ChildLine, which provides similar support for youngsters. The Silver Line is now open nationwide after a year-long pilot, which Esther said has already saved lives.
She said: “One caller rang and said that it was the choice between jumping in the canal or picking up the phone, and they rang Silver Line. “One lady wrote to me and said ‘I feel my life is pointless, that I’m a waste of space’.”
Last year, Esther called 20 users on Christmas Day. She said: “It’s very emotional. There was one gentleman I spoke to who said I was the first person he had spoken to all day. I rang him back a couple of days later and I was the only person he had spoken to throughout the Christmas period.
“It is really, really important to have somebody to talk to. But in all the calls, after you have been talking to somebody for 15 minutes or so you end up laughing, talking about TV, or what is going on in the world and you leave them happier than you find them.”
Nicola Layton, on the support team in Wesham, Lancs, said often the longest calls were in the night when people did not want to bother their families. She said: “One lady was just about to go to bed. She had a new pair of pyjamas and she just wanted to say goodnight to someone. “Another lady likes to have the number at the side of the bed because if she didn’t phone us in the morning nobody would know she was still alive.”
The helpline also has a buddy scheme, where people are teamed up with a volunteer who calls them once a week. Partially-sighted Joseph Day, 79, lost his wife to cancer two years ago. He said: “My family can’t be here all the time and after I lost Elizabeth I’ve been lonely."Now I have a lady who rings me for half an hour every week. When you are sat at home on your own all day it is very lonely, so I look forward to the calls.”
Ella Britton, 78, has lived alone since being widowed 10 years ago. She said: “We were together for 35 years. The only thing he ever did wrong was die and leave me on my own.
“I rang The Silver Line for a chat and they were wonderful. I’ve got children but they have busy lives, and you don’t really want to tell your children that you don’t want to wake up in the morning.”
0800 4 70 80 90 - Calls to The Silver Line for a chat, help or advice are free from a landline.