COUNTY NEWS: Sussex named a ‘loneliness hotspot’

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Sussex has been named a ‘loneliness hotspot’ as thousands of calls have been made by elderly people to The Silver Line Helpline.

The charity looked at data from more than one million calls that its helpline received since launching in 2013, to pinpoint the areas where calls come from.

Sussex came fourth place for calls out of all counties in the UK, putting the county in fifth place of the calls ‘league table’, a spokesperson confirmed.

A total of 24,891 calls have been made, 14,005 from West Sussex and 10,886 from East Sussex.

Two thirds of the calls were made during the night and at weekends.

The Silver Line’s founder, Dame Esther Rantzen, said: “Every day we hear from lonely older people who have led interesting lives but are now isolated, utterly alone, and literally have no one to speak to for days on end.

“Calls come from virtually everywhere in the UK – places as different as Crawley and Brighton – but alike in that older people are experiencing the same loneliness.

“Our figures show there are lonely older people living in every street, in every community, and we know that for many night-times are the worst for them.

“That is why it is vital we are there when no other helpline is available for older people who may be lonely, isolated or confused.”

The charity’s leaders are fearing for the future without more donations.

The call service relies entirely on donations to keep the helpline going and pay for friendship calls between volunteer Silver Line friends and older people.

The growing demand from lonely older people means the charity now needs to raise £1.65 million to pay for the night-time and weekend service and fears that without more public donations the vital service ‘may have to close’, a spokesperson said.

“More and more people are calling us every month – and with the festive period fast approaching we expect the number of callers to rise even higher,” said chief executive, Sophie Andrews.

She added: “Some callers want a friendly chat because they are lonely, others are looking for information, with the majority of older people turning to us at night time and weekends.

“For many older people, the early hours are often when they feel the challenge of being all alone.”

The charity is asking the public for help in combating this ‘hidden epidemic of loneliness’.

Donating £5 pays for a call to the 24-hour helpline from an older person and £100 pays for an older person to be supported for a year.

The Silver Line has 3,000 volunteers and is the only free, national, confidential helpline open every day and night, offering information, friendship and advice to older people.

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