There is a friend here

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I was interested to read your report that South Tyneside is said to be the 15th loneliest borough in England (Shields Gazette, November 27).

Since losing my own husband, Desmond Wilcox, 15 years ago, I understand what it’s like to be lonely. And I know there are thousands more older people in the same position – many of whom can go for days or even weeks with no one to speak to, or share a laugh with.

That’s why I set up The Silver Line. It’s the only free, confidential helpline for older people, operating around-the-clock, 365-days-a-year, to provide information, friendship and advice, and signposting callers to other resources in their community.

On Christmas Day, many older people will be getting a call from their Silver Line Friend and for the many that will be the only person they speak to that day.

That’s why I am asking readers to support The Silver Line in combating loneliness – call 0800 4 70 80 90 or go to our website . You can volunteer as a ‘Silver Line Friend’ to chat with an isolated older person, or support our work through donations, festive fundraising, or by spreading the word about our helpline.

It’s fantastic that the ‘man on the moon’ TV advert means we’re all talking about the issue of isolation among older people at Christmas.

But even on a normal day we are handling a call a minute – proof that lonely older people are in our communities all the year round, not just at Christmas.

Dame Esther Rantzen DBE