Older people's mental health deserves equal attention
Older people are some of the loneliest in the country - according to a charity which warns their mental health is being sidelined. According to Silver Line, its helpline has received more than 88 thousand calls from the East since it launched in 2013 - and those numbers have been rapidly increasing.
They include around 33,000 calls from Essex - the second highest outside of London - and 25,000 from Hertfordshire.
But Silver Line's chief executive says, nearly four years after launching the charity, older people's mental health is still not receiving the attention and resources it deserves.
The helpline for older people was set up by Esther Rantzen. She had been inundated with letters after speaking of her loneliness upon the death of her husband.
Among those to make use of the service - which launched in 2013 - is 83-year-old Maureen Braby, from Clacton in Essex, who suffers from anxiety and loneliness. Despite regular contact with her daughter, who lives far away, she still feels alone. "It's given me back my confidence, it's given me a regular chatline. The Silver Line friend who calls me is a lovely lady, she really is, and the conversation flows.
"It makes me feel good because I look forward to her call. She rings me, we talk, then when I get off the phone I feel uplifted because I feel someone cares about me."
Once a week a friend called Liz calls Maureen and chats for half an hour. And every so often, when she needs someone to speak to, Maureen calls the helpline herself.
For 70-year-old Bevil Massey, from Sudbury in Suffolk, Silver Line has helped him cope with his loneliness after the death of his second wife five years ago. At the time, he had counselling and spoke to the Samaritans - but despite regular contact with his children, he still felt alone. Two years ago he contacted Silver Line for the first time. "I just can't recommend enough to people this type of organisation because it's there for anybody who feels in anyway lonely or on their own or needs to talk to somebody. "I just feel I'm wanted. I just feel there are people out there who want to know me and it gives me that feeling of elation, if you like." He also writes letters to another Silver Line friend.
Sophie Andrews, Silver Line Chief Executuive:
The investment in mental health in the young has, over recent years, been high on the agenda - but not necessarily matched in the older generation. "Your ability to change your situation when you're older is severely reduced. "If you've got mobility issues, if you live in a rural area, if you've lost your family and friends or your partner, how do you change it if you feel lonely?
"There's been a lot of talk about mental health in terms of younger people, a lot of raising awareness, but no-one's talking about older people. This will affect older people and their ability to get help is much reduced."
Calls to the helpline range from questions about local services, to people wanting to say goodnight to someone, or even having woken up and needing to hear a human voice. The one thing they all have in common is that at that point in time they have no one else to talk to.
The Silverline helpline number is: 0800 4 70 80 90.