Still Game star backs Age Scotland Friendship Campaign to tackle loneliness

Still Game star Greg Hemphill has said he is proud to support Age Scotland’s national Friendship Campaign to help tens of thousands of older people who are feeling increasingly isolated and lonely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The charity is encouraging anyone who is feeling alone to pick up the phone and call its free friendship line for a chat or just to have a friendly ear to listen.

The campaign, which launches today, aims to help older people stay connected, at a time when many are struggling, by offering a service which will support, comfort and reassure those in need.

Anyone calling the Age Scotland Helpline on 0800 12 44 222, which also offers advice and information for older people, can request a friendship call.

The campaign is backed by local radio advertising, featuring Greg Hemphill, and there will be flyers distributed through 469 pharmacies as well as posted to over 65s across Scotland.

Greg Hemphill said: “The effect of this cruel virus on our older people has been particularly devastating. Age Scotland’s friendship helpline is a welcome opportunity for any person who feels vulnerable or anxious and could use a friendly voice. I am proud to support it.”

Since the start of the pandemic, the Age Scotland Helpline has seen a significant rise in the volume of calls from older people who are missing face to face contact with family and friends and the absence of social activities. Many report feeling lonely, anxious and disconnected from their families and communities.

Before coronavirus, loneliness was already a significant public health concern. Age Scotland research found that more than 200,000 older people in Scotland could go a week without seeing or speaking to another person.

The health impact of chronic loneliness is as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and raises the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, depression and developing dementia.

Brian Sloan, chief executive of Age Scotland, added: “I am delighted to launch our Age Scotland Friendship Campaign at a time when it is more important than ever for older people to feel valued and connected.

“The past three months have been extremely difficult for tens of thousands of older people who have struggled to cope with feeling cut adrift from society and desperately missing family, friends and ‘normal life’.

“Our free friendship line is a place where older people can turn if they are in need of support, comfort and reassurance or even just a friendly chat. Sometimes it’s not easy to tell loved ones how we are feeling. But our experienced advisers are on hand to listen and have a leather.

“So don’t suffer in silence. Age Scotland is here for older people - call us on 0800 12 44 222 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, and let us help you feel less alone.”

Christina McKelvie, the minister for older people, said: “We want everyone in Scotland to be connected and have someone to turn to, especially during this challenging time. Many older people will feel particularly isolated and will be missing their friends and family. That’s why Age Scotland’s helpline is providing such an invaluable service and this new campaign will provide another opportunity for older people to connect with others.

“The £700,000 funding we have provided to date has helped increase capacity to their national helpline, enabling staff to handle up to 1500 calls per day. Each call can offer a vital lifeline to those seeking practical advice or just a friendly chat, helping older people feel more supported during the pandemic.”

  • Read all of our articles relating to COVID-19 here.
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