VIDEO: ‘Don’t be alone this Christmas’ - Esther Rantzen appeals to Dorset residents (From Bournemouth Echo)
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VIDEO: ‘Don’t be alone this Christmas’ - Esther Rantzen appeals to Dorset residents
CAMPAIGNER Esther Rantzen has urged people to share a priceless gift this Christmas – a smile and a chat.
The television personality, who has launched a free and confidential telephone helpline for older, lonely people, is determined to try to reach the large numbers of elderly people who might not speak to anyone over the festive period.
She urged anyone feeling lonely to ring the new Silver Line helpline and befriending service, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and said everyone had a responsibility to look out for the vulnerable in their community.
And she said the tragic death of Roy and Glenys Smith, who fell from the window of their third floor flat in Bournemouth, had left her deeply concerned about the numbers of elderly people becoming consumed by their worries, instead of seeking support.
Miss Rantzen, who has a house in the New Forest, said: “I think a smile and chat helps so much, whether it’s in a bus queue, in a post office, in a bank, wherever.
“People may have grown up in a community, in a street where neighbours know each other, where people say good morning to each other.
“We need to bring back ‘Good morning, how are you,’ I think.
“Everything has speeded up so much and actually what we’re doing now is racing past the little moments that actually make life fun.
“And then there’s our phoneline. If you’ve got a neighbour who might enjoy a conversation with our Silver Liners, suggest it to them.”
She said she had struggled with loneliness after the death of her husband saw her living alone for the first time.
“I found it quite disconcerting to come back to an empty flat, the place would be dark, there would be no one to make a cup of tea for.”
After writing about her feelings in a newspaper article, she was inundated with responses, many from people who said she was ‘brave’ for admitting to feeling lonely.
“People find it difficult to admit to loneliness, they don’t want to be a burden, they say they know there’s people worse off than them. It’s a very uncomplaining generation,” said Miss Rantzen.
“But a survey carried out to mark the launch of Silver Line revealed that 15 per cent of people admit to loneliness, that’s 2.5m people. And 84 per cent said they find it difficult to talk about, even to their own families.”
Miss Rantzen and Silver Line volunteers will spend Christmas Day phoning some of the people who have already made contact with Silver Line and might be lonely at Christmas.
Silver Line is a free and confidential telephone helpline that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The number is 0800 4 70 80 90.
Other services include Age UK on 01202 530530, Brendoncare on 01202 722211, Help and Care 0300 111 3303 and the Royal Voluntary Service on 0845 608 0122.
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