News : Pensioners Flood Esther Rantzen's Helpline for the Lonely
May 26, 2014 -- The staggering volume of calls to 24-hour service The Silver Line reveals how a helpless army of the elderly has been suffering in silence.
Now celebrity campaigner Esther Rantzen is demanding the shocking statistics act as a "wake-up call".
The veteran TV host, who set up the free and confidential line, has been stunned at the numbers phoning in, with roughly one pensioner every three minutes seeking someone to speak to.
Esther, 73, said: "This has to be a wake-up call because this is, and will continue to be, a huge ongoing issue.
"I have unearthed a huge problem. It is very distressing but that is why everyone needs to act."
She has spoken openly about her long struggle with solitude after the death of her documentary maker husband Desmond Wilcox in 2000.
Her helpline is the only around-the-clock phone service offering friendship, advice and information for older people.
Former That’s Life! presenter Esther’s crusade to help vulnerable pensioners comes after she set up ChildLine, the UK’s first telephone counselling service for children.
Today, almost 30 years after it was founded in 1986, the service gets one million calls a year from children worried about issues such as abuse, bullying, divorce, pregnancy and drug use.
Now Esther has made it a personal mission to address the shameful neglect of those in their twilight years, aggravated by swingeing budget cuts to vital council services.
Tomorrow she will lay bare the true scale of the problem to an invited audience at The Royal Society of Medicine in London.
Esther said: "In our first six months we have taken more than 100,000 calls. That says everything you need to know about the problem we face."
"ChildLine proved to me that if you offer a way of safely providing help, people will use that resource. The elderly should not suffer in silence."
Esther, who is very close to her three children, admits to still struggling to come to terms with loneliness.
She said: "Not a day goes by when I don’t think of Desi.
"The passage of time doesn’t make it any easier. Yes, I am very busy but I still get terribly lonely."
"It can strike everyone, rich or poor, unknown or famous but there is a stigma that stops older people seeking help.
"They don’t want to be a burden."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About The Silver Line:
The Silver Line is the only free confidential helpline providing information, friendship and advice to older people, open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
Published: Thursday, May 29, 2014
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