Project information

Reducing isolation for older people this winter

The Silver Line is the UK’s only helpline for older people that is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Winter is a difficult time for the isolated. Short days and bad weather make it harder to get out, so we receive an influx of calls. Help us support callers seeking human contact this Christmas.

December 2017 - January 2018

Charity information: The Silver Line Helpline

The Silver Line Helpline logo
  • Need


    Loneliness can affect anyone, but is more common in older age. Stigma prevents people speaking out, making loneliness a hidden epidemic. Loss of a spouse, worsening health, loss of driver’s license, or some other significant life change can make anyone isolated. Both mental and physical health is affected, as loneliness is the same as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. There are times when isolation is more keenly felt, and most of our calls (68%) are made at night and weekends, peaking during winter.


    The Silver Line offers a simple solution; human contact through the UK’s only free and confidential helpline for older people that is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is amazing the difference a phone call can make to someone who is alone, as it provides reassurance and comfort. The Silver Line responds to callers’ needs in three ways: a listening ear in a moment of acute loneliness or anxiety; signposting to local services in the community, or being connected to our friendship services.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    We aim to support 100,000 isolated older people, reducing loneliness and improving their wellbeing


    » We will answer 1000 calls every night during the winter period (December – January)
    » We will answer all calls within 10 seconds
    » Rather than processing calls in the shortest time possible, our team will engage with callers; really listen to them and converse, not follow a script

    What success will look like

    We will monitor and track the number of calls received by the helpline and the time it takes to answer them

    Aim 2

    We aim to encourage and support older people to reengage with their communities and local services


    » Through the helpline, we will signpost older people to services and activities in their community
    » Silver Connects will support those who need more in-depth assistance (e.g. low confidence/skills, complex issues) to access the services they need

    What success will look like

    We will record numbers of people signposted to services and through Silver Connects we will be able to track both uptake and the outcome

    Aim 3

    Match 300 older people to a volunteer or offer wellbeing calls, giving comfort from regular contact


    » We will advise all callers on the availability of our befriending services
    » We will provide weekly wellbeing calls to those who want regular contact, but not a friend, or whose complex needs mean a volunteer is unsuitable
    » We will provide keeping in touch calls to older people waiting to be matched with a volunteer, so they are not left alone or without regular contact

    What success will look like

    We will track referrals to our befriending services and the number of matches, we will track the number of wellbeing and keeping in touch calls made

  • Impact


    The difference a simple telephone call can make is huge. From our most recent internal survey of older people involved in matched friendships; 93% reported that we had improved their sense of happiness, and 98% said that calls from The Silver Line has made a positive difference to their lives. When asked how we made them feel the most common responses were cared for, less isolated, and listened to. Through ongoing evaluation and surveys, we will continue to demonstrate our impact.


    It costs us £5 to answer each call and we receive around 10,000 calls each week. With the demand for our service growing rapidly, a big risk for our organisation and the project itself is raising the income needed to meet this demand. The Big Give Christmas Appeal, and the money raised from it, will go some way in ensuring we can continue supporting the thousands of older people who call us each week.


    Donors will receive regular updates via newsletters, our website and social media.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £500,000

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £500,000 Helpline calls It costs £5 to answer one call to the helpline and we will answer 100,000 during the project.
  • Background


    The Silver Line is available across the UK. Being a telephone service, geography is no barrier and any older person resident in the UK can call from anywhere, at any time. Our head office is based in London while our helpline is based in Blackpool.


    This will benefit older people who are struggling with isolation and loneliness or need information and guidance but do not know where to turn. The UK has an aging population and loneliness is a growing problem among this age group; not surprising given that over half of those aged 75 and over live alone. Over five million say that the television is their main company and 1 in 10 admit to suffering “intense” loneliness. From our own data, 53% of callers say they have no one else to speak to.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    We are the only free, confidential helpline for older people in the UK that runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Since our launch, we have received over 1.45 million calls and almost 70% are at night or weekends, when other services are closed. An evaluation of our service by Anglia Ruskin University, has shown we are not only reaching the loneliest, most isolated older people but are improving their lives through something as simple as a telephone call.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    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’

    Alan Walsh

    Head of Helpline: Previously worked as a helpline advisor, answering calls from our older people, before moving into his current role

    Dame Esther Rantzen

    Founder and President of The Silver Line. Esther is also the remarkable founder of the national helpline, ChildLine, over 30 years ago.