Launch of the Silver Line: First free 24-hour helpline for older people

Categories: Care.

The Silver Line  (0800 4 70 80 90) is the only free, confidential, 24-hour service for older people and in addition to the phone line, the service will provide trained volunteers who will become ‘Silver Line Friends’ and make regular friendship calls.

Silver Line Scotland will be delivered by Age Scotland, answering calls from 8am to 8pm on weekdays, in partnership with The Silver Line.

To mark the launch, the results of a new survey have been released, exploring the extent of feelings of loneliness among older people and the most effective remedies.

Combating Loneliness

According to the survey of more than 1,000 older people conducted by ComRes, “a chat on the phone” is perceived to be the best way to combat loneliness, with nine out of 10 older people saying they would find it helpful.

Yet, the survey results also revealed that one in four older people say they never or very rarely use the phone socially.

The Silver Line survey said that 2.5 million older people (15% of the older population) often feel lonely. And according to the charity, given the stigma attached to admitting loneliness, this figure may be much higher.

During a pilot phase launched in November 2012, The Silver Line Helpline has answered 7,000 calls from older people and initial results suggest that a simple phone call can be life-changing.

One caller said: “When I put the telephone down, I feel I belong to the human race”. 

Another said: “It’s so good to talk to someone who actually seems to be interested in what I think.”

‘Less suicidal’

During the pilot phase, a lady told the service how alone she felt since her sister died, but now that she has The Silver Line to ring she feels less suicidal: “You get so down you think why bother, but now I feel less shuffled under the carpet.” 

Esther Rantzen, Chair and Founder of The Silver Line said: “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. 

“The new Silver Line, with its free 24 hour number, will be the single memorable number we hope all older people will turn to when they need information, friendship or protection. We will signpost them 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”.

Silver Line’s national launch has been made possible by a grant from the Big Lottery Fund of £5million over two years. Peter Ainsworth, Chair, Big Lottery Fund described the loneliness and isolation of older people as one of the “last big taboos.” Describing the success of ChildLine service, he continued:

“ChildLine continues to transform the lives of so many children and has done so for the past 27 years. I believe that The Silver Line will make the same significant difference for today’s older people and future generations by promoting dignity and helping to prevent the neglect of vulnerable older people.” 

Fear of becoming a burden

Sophie Andrews, Chief Executive of the Silver Line said that the older generation are fearful of admitting their loneliness for fear of becoming a burden. She added:

“That is why we are offering information and advice, as well as friendship.  We will not replicate the excellent services that are provided by organisations in the statutory and voluntary sectors, many of whom have supported and collaborated with us but we will be able to signpost our callers to them.

The slogan for Silver Line is: ‘No question is too big, no problem too small, no need to be alone’.

And the phone number has been chosen to make it easy for older people to remember:

0800 4 70 80 90.

The grant from the Big Lottery Fund will cover half the cost of running The Silver Line for two years.

Founding partners of The Silver Line are Comic Relief, Swiss Re and BT who made the pilot phase of The Silver Line possible.


Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb said “We know how damaging loneliness can be on our mental and physical health, which is why we have supported the invaluable work of Silver Line from the beginning. 

“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.”

You can download resources, including a leaflet about the service, from The Silver Line website.

A film documenting the benefits of The Silver Line service can also be seen on YouTube.

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