Andy Peterson, Head of Strategic Propositions at Tunstall get us up to speed on the progress of our project with The Silver Line and the Birmingham Telecare Service (BTS).

A reassuring pilot

It’s been a few months now since I last updated you on the progress of our Reassurance Calls pilot, being delivered in Birmingham to BTS service users by The Silver Line.

The good news is that we’re now fully up and running, with a steady flow of people requesting that BTS refer them to The Silver Line. For those that don’t know, The Silver Line is a national charity founded by Dame Esther Rantzen DBE which offers information, friendship and advice and gives older people the opportunity to chat and build friendships.

People receiving the Reassurance Calls service are contacted by a member of The Silver Line Friendship Team once a week for a ten minute chat at a time convenient to them. From then on it’s a case of what best fits the needs of that person; for example several people have already been successfully matched for the continuation phase of the pilot, in which they have a longer term ongoing relationship with one of The Silver Line’s trained volunteers.

The load of loneliness

Evidence shows that this kind of contact has a hugely beneficial impact on older people who may be suffering from problems caused by social isolation. The Silver Line took more than half a million calls to their national helpline in the first 12 months after they launched in 2013, proving that loneliness is just as much of a challenge for society as long-term health conditions.

Dorothy, 85, discovered The Silver Line after her husband died. She had been feeling very low and spent days at a time without seeing or talking to anyone. She says “I often used to have a little weep. It was the feeling of being abandoned. The Silver Line should be called the Silver Lifeline. It’s knowing that there is always somebody there who cares, someone to talk to who is always kind and understanding.”

Silver services

The Silver Line has already launched other services such as Silver Circles – a kind of conference calling for like-minded people – and Silver Letters, which is a good old fashioned pen pal scheme. They have told us, however, that much to the disappointment of an interested gentleman in Birmingham, they won’t be starting a dating service, at least for the foreseeable future.

The first Silver Week has also been held, starting 31st May, which celebrated 18 months of helping older people to feel less lonely. The Silver Line asked people across the UK to take a few moments to share their Twitter and Facebook posts, and help to spread the word about the difference the Silver Line makes. Tunstall helped the cause with a variety of fundraising activities, including a raffle and giving 50p to The Silver Line for every Lifeline Vi/Vi+ telecare home unit sold in June. Our efforts, which also included Account Manager John East running a half marathon, raised a total of £3214.00.

Let’s not underestimate the power of a quick chat with the people we might encounter as we go about our daily lives. A kind word takes a moment but its effects can last much longer.

Photo: Ali Rogan, Group External Affairs Director, Tunstall Healthcare, presents Sophie Andrews, Chief Executive, The Silver Line with a cheque for the fundraised amount.