Lancashire-based Silver Line help thousands over Christmas

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A free 24-hour dedicated helpline to combat loneliness for older people received more than 3,000 calls a week over the festive period.

The Silver Line, based in Wesham, Lancashire, received 678 calls on Christmas Day and 457 calls on Boxing Day after November's national launch.

Last Christmas, the charity's founder Esther Rantzen and Chief Executive Sophie Andrews handled 70 calls.

Silver Line said callers felt "isolated and lonely over Christmas".

Volunteers offer friendship, information and advice to callers aged 60 and over. The charity was also contacted by people under the age of 60.

'Isolated and lonely'

On New Year's Eve, volunteers spoke to 348 callers and another 400 calls were taken on on New Year's Day.

But they also telephoned about 500 people who had requested a call at Christmas because "they were alone and knew they might not speak to anyone else over the holiday", the charity said.

Ms Rantzen said: "It was wonderful that so many people know our number and are turning to us for support but it is also tragic that so many had to do so over the Christmas period."

The helpline was staffed 24 hours a day, unlike the pilot scheme last year when the telephone number was not available nationally.

A Silver Line spokeswoman said: "Many older people feel particularly isolated and lonely over Christmas when activities and events they regularly take part in are closed."

"For some older people this time of year is especially difficult as they remember happier times when they were part of a busy family and friendship network which no longer exists," she added.

The Silver Line received 3,102 calls on the first day of its national launch on 25 November.

Volunteers have handled more than 23,000 calls since the launch.

Silver Line can be contacted on 0800 4 70 80 90.

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