The Silver Line is a befriending service helping to combat loneliness by putting older people in contact with a volunteer friend for regular weekly telephone calls.
The system is so simple and effective, Silver Line Friend Paula Imbert says anyone can do it and she only wishes more people would volunteer. All you have to do is sit and chat over the phone for half an hour, once a week.
Paula said: “I think as many people as possible should be doing it because it is so easy. All I have to do is chat and it doesn’t cost me a penny.
“The only thing you have to do is keep that half hour free every week. I always do Sunday morning because I can guarantee I am free and I feel Sunday is the worst day for feeling lonely.”
Paula, 90, from Goring started with her first Silver Liner, as the service users are known, in April 2015, having completed some training with the charity.
A former teacher, she has done a lot of volunteering over the years, including helping at charity shops, driving for Contact the Elderly and visiting dementia patients for Age Concern’s Knowing Me project.
Paula said: “Gradually, it was becoming more difficult for me. Then I heard about The Silver Line and I thought it was brilliant, I didn’t have to go out and it was an opportunity to chat, which I love doing.”
Paula explained there are strict rules about the friendship calls. They are made using a computer link so the phone number is kept private, they have to be kept to a strict time limit and only first names are given.
“I find it freeing in a way because I feel they can say what they like. It is a non-judgemental relationship and you don’t get emotionally involved,” said Paula.
Since she started, she has had a number of Silver Liners, at one point helping two at the same time, and has been chatting with her current one, a lovely 94-year-old woman, since March 2017.
Paula said: “We always find the time is too short. We are two old fogeys who put the world to rights. What more can I say.
“It cheers me up no end. People are very lonely, you just want someone to chat. It is hearing someone’s voice.
“People can be very kind, I find, but they don’t appreciate how a little bit of company, and inconsequential company, can make all the difference.
“I think The Silver Line is a brilliant charity and I wish more people would do it. It is an absolute doddle, providing you don’t mind talking – and listening, of course.”
The Silver Line Helpline has received more than two million calls since the national launch in November 2013. As well as setting up friendship calls, the charity is a signposting service. Telephone 0800 4708090.