It’s so good to talk that a telephone befriending service set up a year ago is going from strength to strength.
Silver Talk, which is run by North-East housing association Isos, has grown to include a team of nine volunteer call handlers who now keep in regular, weekly contact with 19 elderly service users across Northumberland.
The free scheme was set up in a bid to tackle loneliness and feelings of isolation among Isos’s older tenants and it’s having such a positive impact there are now plans for those involved with the project to meet for the very first time.
Next month, a coffee morning is being held at the Manors Extra Care scheme, in Prudhoe, Northumberland, where service users can finally meet their Silver Talk volunteers and put a face to the voice of their callers.
Silver Talk is overseen by the housing association’s Older Persons team.Tenants aged 60 and over can apply to receive one or more calls per week and are matched, where possible, with volunteers who have similar interests and hobbies.
The call handlers, most of whom are older people themselves, complete a maximum of three hours a week manning the phones. They are fully trained and the sessions are supervised.
Silver Talk volunteering project officer, Andrea Alder, said: “Our service users have told us how much they look forward to receiving a call each week – some of them have suffered with depression, some are housebound and they don’t get the opportunity to chat to people because of that.
“Some of them do have family, but they don’t necessarily talk to them very much. Because our volunteers are often of a similar age they find they have things in common and they go on to form a real bond with the volunteer.”
One of the call handlers, a retired nurse, said the service also benefited the volunteers. She said: “I love being a Silver Talk volunteer – I get so much out of it and enjoy talking to people.
“I found it difficult when I retired as I missed the connections with people. Volunteering has given some structure to my week and gets me out the house.
“The service users have become a bit like friends and they now seem to trust me. One of the service users I love ringing is always ready and waiting for my weekly call.”
With plans to grow the service to reach more tenants who may be feeling isolated – particularly those who live in rural areas – anyone interested in becoming a volunteer should contact Andrea, or a member of the Supported Housing Older Persons team, on Tel. (0300) 300 1505.
Tenants who would like to sign up to receive a call from the Silver Talk service can call the same number to register their interest. The service is only open to Isos tenants.