Broadcasting veteran and campaigner Esther Rantzen has officially launch a helpline for older people on the Fylde coast.
In a similar way to Childline, The Silver Line will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, offering a listening service and friendly voice at the other end of the phone to help tackle loneliness and isolation.
After a successful pilot across the North West, the scheme received lottery funding to go nationwide.
Ms Rantzen came to Ribby Hall Village, in Wrea Green, to meet volunteers from the Fylde coast, and to film for the BBC Breakfast Show, over afternoon tea.
She and The Silver Line chief executive, Sophie Andrews, also spent time chatting to those who have already benefited from The Silver Line service – which has its main call centre in Blackpool.
She told The Gazette: “The people of Blackpool and Lancashire are absolutely lovely. I came to meet some of the staff and volunteers ahead of the launch and they are the most wonderful people.
“They are providing that service to people who are suffering pangs of loneliness or isolation at any time they need it. They help in every way they can, they are on hand to listen to callers and give that vital support.
“The best comment I have heard from an older person who used the service was ‘When I put the phone down, I felt like I belonged to the human race’.”
The helpline aims to support vulnerable older people, sign-post them to projects and services, break the stigma of isolation, and tackle abuse and neglect – much in the same way Childline has done for 27 years. It has a befriending service, with trained volunteers, to combat loneliness.
Isolation and loneliness in older people has been found to shorten life, create depression and hasten the onset of dementia.
The Silver Line has the backing of the Campaign to End Loneliness, which says 51 per cent of people aged 75 and over live alone and 20 per cent of older people say they are lonely sometimes.
A spokesman from Ribby Hall said: “We were delighted to be asked to host such a special event at Ribby Hall Village’s Restaurant. Esther took time to speak with the volunteers. She was very inspirational.”
The helpline number is 0800 4 708090. To volunteer, click www.thesilverline.org.uk