Loneliness is “New Normal” for Many Older People | Newry Times

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Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

As life begins to return to normal, sadly, for many of the 80,000 older people living alone in Northern Ireland, loneliness is their normal and this is unlikely to change.


Loneliness is “New Normal” for Many Older People - Newry Times - newry news co down


Age NI launched its Check-In and Chat service in 2020, in response to the COVID pandemic. 



As face-to-face contact with family, friends and support services came to a dramatic halt, a weekly call from a specially matched charity volunteer became a valuable lifeline for hundreds of older people.

In the past year, Age NI volunteers have made more than 20,000 friendship calls to lonely older people across Northern Ireland.

Linda Robinson, Chief Executive of Age NI explains, “Check-In and Chat was an emergency response to the pandemic.

“However we are now seeing that there is a more widespread need for this service, to tackle the enormous burden of loneliness in older people. 



“The World Health Organisation states that the health risks of loneliness are equivalent to smoking a packet of cigarettes a day. 

“After the last year, we all have a little more insight into the negative effects of long days without seeing others. 

“It seems unimaginable that some older people have gone from one week to the next without seeing or speaking to another individual. 

“Anxiety and depression creep in, motivation to keep active drops off, frailty increases and other health issues start to rack up. 

“It’s the simplest concept, to have a weekly chat with someone, but the impact it’s had for users of our service has been immeasurable.

“One lady described the loneliness as excruciating and our volunteer has been called “a lifesaver”.



Supporting Age NI’s campaign is Belfast man, Jim (75), who was referred to Check-In and Chat in the autumn. 

His family were increasingly worried about him after the many months of lockdown and isolation. 

He was matched to Age NI volunteer, Laura. 

Jim says, “I can honestly say that Laura saved my life. 

“I will never be able to repay what she has done for me. 

“I was down, out, done, I had just had enough, and I thank God that Laura was there.

“I looked forward to her weekly calls and they have given me a new start. 

“I’m coming out of it now and I’m looking ahead to going fishing with my son and grandson, getting back to the football and seeing my new baby great-grand-daughter growing up,” he adds.



Age NI has launched a fundraising appeal to support Check-In and Chat as a standalone service.

It involves recruiting, matching, training and supporting a fleet of volunteers. 

While the main aim is to offer a regular friendly chat, many callers have also been able to signpost their older person to other health and wellbeing services, catching issues that could otherwise have been missed.

Anyone over 60 in Northern Ireland can register free of charge, to receive a regular telephone call from a specially matched, trained Check-In and Chat volunteer. 

Call the Age NI Advice on 0808 808 7575 or email info@ageni.org.

To find out more, or to make a donation, visit www.ageni.org/checkinandchat21



Subject to fundraising, recruitment for Check-In and Chat volunteers will begin in July. 

If you are interested in volunteering, please call 02890 245729.



Keep up to date with all the latest Northern Ireland Coronavirus / Covid-19 news HERE.


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