Senior Line will be open throughout Christmas for lonely elderly

Losses of Covid-19 have triggered earlier sorrows for callers

Anne Dempsey says they are coping well with the large numbers of calls they are receiving. Photograph: iStock

Anne Dempsey says they are coping well with the large numbers of calls they are receiving. Photograph: iStock


A helpline for the elderly which has seen its calls double this year has moved to reassure the public that their volunteers will be on hand throughout the holiday season.

The Senior Line, which was recently shortlisted for a Charity Impact award, is a national Freephone peer-to-peer telephone service for older people.

Some 180 trained volunteers man the service which is operational 365 days a year from 10am to 10pm.

Anne Dempsey, communications manager with the Senior Line, says that their calls have skyrocketed this year arising out of the loneliness of the pandemic.

“Our calls have pretty much doubled. We had 10,000 calls last year. We are hitting 18,000 to 20,000 calls this year the way things are going. We invite people to call as often as they need.

“We will stay with them for as long as they want. More complex calls can last for over an hour. We just stay with the person. We don’t give any advice. We just stay with people.

“Our model of listening is very effective. We can’t solve the coronavirus but we can be there for people.”

Ms Dempsey says the losses of Covid have triggered earlier sorrows for callers.

”We are getting calls about abusive marriages present and past. The whole area of elder abuse. Worries about family. Loss of spouses many years ago.

“The sadness of today and the emptiness in people’s lives is reminding them of earlier events and they are going back over things.

“Our volunteers give people time to talk about the past without any judgement.”

Ms Dempsey says in such an unsettling time it is vital that people try to put some sort of structure in place for the day.

“Every day can feel hopeless and aimless. We talk to people about trying to put a structure in their day. One of the things would be to say to people to try and get out every day. Something amazing happens to us when we get out.

“When we get a walk in the fresh air something changes in our energy. We come home frequently a different person. A more positive person.

“We all need to feel we are moving forward in life. Anything at all to put a shape on the day. Baking a cake, tidying a drawer, washing a wall.

“If you are living alone try to make your home as nice as possible. It all helps. A lot of our calls are mentoring. Whatever their issue is is our issue.”

Ms Dempsey says they are coping well with the large numbers of calls they are receiving.

She is urging people who are feeling intense loneliness to get in touch.

Meanwhile, Damian Leneghan, Senior Line’s Programme Manager, says that people tell them that talking to someone their own age makes it easier.

“They have a sense we understand and our volunteers have a lot in common with our callers. The need for Senior Line has never been greater and we are very glad to be so accessible.”

Senior Line can be contacted on Freefone 1800 804591.