Deborah Cunningham is part of a growing UK-wide team of volunteer Silver Line Friends, who are delivering weekly befriending calls to lonely and isolated older people around the country. Deborah speaks regularly to Sue* in Scotland and here she describes how the relationship is bringing enjoyment to both their lives.
I have a new friend in my life. Like most friends we talk regularly, know quite a lot about each other and have shared a few laughs. But we have never met or chatted over a cup of tea and probably never will, yet both of us are quite happy with the situation. I look forward to our weekly telephone conversations and always (or usually) come away cheered. You see, Sue and I are Silver Line friends, part of Esther Rantzen’s fledgling initiative to combat loneliness and isolation amongst older people.
A few months ago we each put ourselves forward as interested in taking part, with some trepidation no doubt, but also with hope. I signed up after reading that weekly telephone calls were making a difference to the lives of older people who felt lonely, isolated or disconnected from those around them – it seemed such a simple thing to do. Sue got involved a few months after her husband died. She had done her best to get on with life – she met friends, volunteered in charity shops, started learning a language, went to an exercise class and is even contemplating getting to grips with computers! But none of this changes the fractured way she feels inside or the need she has to talk about that and the life she shared with her husband. So she contacted Silver Line Scotland, who suggested a telephone befriender.
We were paired up and now chat once a week for about half an hour about anything and everything; what has happened since we last spoke, funny little events, our families, what has been on the television and, yes, how fractured and irrelevant Sue often feels without her husband, how physically painful that loss is, how she does not want to burden her friends and family with her sadness, how I should cherish my husband and children, how I think she is entitled to feel the way she does, how a year alone is nothing after more than fifty years together, how she could sell snow to the eskimos given her sales success in the charity shops, how she makes me laugh, how I think she has lots to offer those around her.
The more I get to know Sue, the more brave and remarkable I think she is. She is entitled to her sadness but she also deserves some relief from it. I can’t take her grief away because I can’t bring Pete* back but I can hope to provide a little bit of a respite. I can also hope that in the future someone will be happy to do the same for me.
If you’re interested in being a Silver Line Friend like Deborah you can find out more on our website.
The Silver Line is a UK-wide helpline. Within Scotland, the Silver Line and Age Scotland work in partnership to deliver Silver Line Scotland. Whether you’re after information and advice, or looking for a chat, you can call 24-hours a day on 0800 4 70 80 90.
*names have been changed.