Project information

Breaking the solitary confinement of loneliness

The Silver Line is the UK’s only helpline for older people that is open 24 hour a day, 365 days a year. We know that nighttime can be particularly difficult for those who are isolated and so, this winter, we need to be able to care for every person who calls seeking the comfort of human contact.

December 2016 - March 2017

Charity information: The Silver Line Helpline

The Silver Line Helpline logo
  • Need


    Isolation can be a particular challenge in older age when people may find themselves bereaved, without friends or relatives close by or imprisoned by disability. Loneliness is the primary reason people call The Silver Line Helpline. As one caller said, “I spend every day looking at the same four walls, not speaking to anyone”. 7 out of 10 calls are made at night when other services close and the number of calls peaks during the festive period and remains high over winter when nights are longer.


    Through a single, memorable telephone number freely available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, The Silver Line makes it easy for people to reach out for support whenever loneliness hits. During a call our team get to understand a person’s needs whether simply a listening ear in a moment of acute loneliness, anxiety or confusion, signposting to the most appropriate services in their community, or being connected to our volunteer-run befriending services.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    We aim to answer 90,000 calls to the Helpline during the winter period.


    » We will answer 1,000 calls every night during the winter project period (December - March).
    » We will make sure all calls are answered within 10 seconds.
    » Rather than processing calls in the shortest time possible, our team are trained to engage meaningfully with callers.

    What success will look like

    We carefully monitor the number of calls answered at the helpline alongside age, location, reason for calling and who else they could have called, if anyone.

    Aim 2

    We aim to sensitively support callers with complex needs.


    » For vulnerable callers a member of our team will make a weekly wellbeing call to check on them and reassure them that someone is thinking about them.
    » For callers who need more than a listening ear, we will help them access further services such as Action Against Elder Abuse or Social Services.

    What success will look like

    We log all outcomes of calls whether signposting to other services, provision of information or simply a conversation.

    Aim 3

    We aim to grow the confidence of 300 callers so that they can join our friendship services.


    » We will advise callers on availability of our friendship services, Silver Line Friends, Silver Circles, Silver Letters.
    » We will track the number of callers who ask to join friendships services every month during the project.

    What success will look like

    We will track the number of people who register to join our friendship service during the project period.

  • Impact


    The difference that something as simple as a conversation can make to a person’s wellbeing is enormous. A recent independent evaluation by Anglia Ruskin University found that our callers report feeling less lonely, anxious and down, and are more cheerful and better able to cope. We conduct regular feedback and evaluation with Silver Liners and will continue to monitor self-reported changes to feelings of loneliness and wellbeing.


    Firstly, while volunteers play a critical role in running our friendship services, operating a nighttime service requires a high level of resilience and so we have maintained a team of paid staff. Secondly, the demand for the service is growing rapidly and depends on securing sustainable funding to meet this. The Big Give Christmas Appeal forms an important part of a wider fundraising strategy to ensure we have the funds needed to operate a rapidly growing service.


    We communicate through regular newsletters, on our website, and through a variety of media channels. We will publish the results of an independent evaluation of the nighttime service to understand the difference this element of our service makes to the lives of older people once undertaken next year

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £315,000

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £315,000 Helpline calls It costs £3.50 to answer one call to the helpline and we will answer 90,000 during the project.
  • Background


    The Silver Line is available across the UK, Channel Islands and IOM for all older people over the age of 60. There are 14.9 million people in the UK aged 60 and above and there are now more people aged over 60 than there are under 18. Staggeringly, the number of people aged 60 or over is expected to pass the 20 million mark by 2030.


    Our project will benefit any older person in the UK, Channel Islands or IOM struggling with isolation and loneliness. More than half of all 75 year olds live alone, over five million say that the television is their main company and 1 in 10 admit to suffering ‘intense’ loneliness. But while 90% of people saying that a ‘chat on the phone’ is the most helpful solution. However, we know that 53% of the people who contact The Silver Line say they have no one else to speak to.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    While there are many wonderful voluntary and statutory supporting older people during office hours, we find that many actively refer people to our helpline when they close. In this, our third year of national operation, we will answer the one-millionth call to the helpline and receive on average 1,500 calls a day. This growing demand is to testament to the special place The Silver Line holds in the fabric of care options for older people across the UK.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Dame Esther Rantzen

    Founder and President of The Silver Line: Esther is well-known as the Founder and President of the national helpline ChildLine.

    Sophie Andrews

    Chief Executive: Extensive experience of helplines as National Chair of the Samaritans (2008 – 2011) and Head of Volunteering at the NSPCC/ ChildLine

    Anthea Beeks

    Director of Operations: Previously Head of Services at Age UK where she established telephone befriending service ‘A Call in Time’.