Adam Stachura: Telephone check-in every day is now part of the service for older people

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It’s good to talk. Remember those adverts? Back in the mid-1990s Bob Hoskins encouraged us to pick up the phone to speak with our friends and family to share news, check-in, improve relationships and generally make time for others in our lives or who we hadn’t been in touch with in a while.

Almost 25 years later it has, in theory, never been easier or cheaper to stay connected with others.

And with these technological advances comes the added pressures of the modern workplace. Email in your pocket wherever you are. Always contactable. For many the nine-to-five is a myth. How do we make time for all of the things we know we need and want to do – such as stay connected with our older loved ones.

– Extra support for older parents

For the “sandwich generation”, and by that I mean people largely aged 40 to 60, in work, kids still at home and older parents living independently but needing support, there can be a significant impact on their ability to juggle the balls thrown at them.

I hear from a sizeable number of mid-career employees across Scotland about the extent of regular, daily calls they are making to their ageing parents to check they are well, taking their medication and remembering upcoming appointments. They are finding it hard to manage this level of routine care and support in between their own considerable childcare responsibilities and pressures of work.

– Increasing numbers of older people living alone

Scotland is ageing faster than the rest of the UK and in 20 years one in four Scots will be over 65. There are a record number of older people already living alone and it is projected to further increase.

As we age, the likelihood of becoming lonely and isolated increases. Retirement, bereavement, moving somewhere new, illness or disability, the kids moving out of the family home, all of these can have a significant impact on how lonely an older person can feel.

Loneliness is a growing public health crisis which is as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It kills. Which is why we must do all that we can to support people to live independently in their own homes with an increased quality of life.

– 365 days a year phone check-in for older people

At Age Scotland, the national charity for people over the age of 50, we want people to love later life. It’s our mission.

To help do this we have developed our Independent Living service. As part of this our new “Good Day Calls” offers reassurance to older people and their families that someone will call them 365 days a year checking they are well, offering support and having a friendly chat.

When we launched this service a month ago, the editorial of The Scotsman said that it could make a huge difference to the lives of older people who currently feel forgotten and commented that “loneliness is crippling and it might come to us all as someone at the centre of a family or social circle can quickly end up alone”.

We want to make sure the time spent with older parents is quality time and not dominated by the time-consuming life admin.

The service costs less than a daily cup of coffee at only £50 a month and we have been offering this service for free to a number of older people across Scotland who we have identified are on low incomes and would benefit from a daily call.

There are a number of great initiatives doing similar work around the country. Our new service is not there to replace or compete with the great work they are doing, but many have waiting lists of people looking to sign up. And with at least 100,000 older people in Scotland who feel lonely all or most of the time I would be surprised if more than 5 per cent get a daily call.

– Tackling loneliness and improving quality of life

Good Day Calls tackle loneliness with every call it makes. Through the friendly chats we can help to identify activity and social opportunities for the older person through Age Scotland’s Community Connecting service.

We know that it’s good to talk and for the many older people who would love to talk more, we’re here to help. Phone 01856 898 222 or visit www.agescotland.org.uk/gooddaycalls to find out more.

Adam Stachura, Age Scotland’s Head of Policy and Communications