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Our history

The Silver Line story began in the light of a universal truth – in a world full of people, no older person should have to feel lonely, isolated or forgotten.

Esther on the phoneIn 2011, Dame Esther Rantzen DBE decided to share with the world that she was experiencing feelings of deep loneliness.

After finding herself living alone for the first time at aged 71, Esther would come home from a busy day to her empty flat and feel profoundly lonely.

She wrote about her experience in The Daily Mail and was inundated with responses from older people who felt Esther was telling their story, too. 

In 2012, Esther received a letter from a lady who described her own experience of living alone as an older person.

The lady revealed that while she was a bubbly, optimistic person with family living nearby, she’d often go 3 days or more without speaking a word to anyone. She wrote of her fear of burdening others and her struggle with feelings of isolation and intense loneliness.

Tackling the taboo of loneliness

Esther was deeply struck by the author’s experience – why should someone have to endure such feelings simply because they’re older and perhaps living alone?

The revelation took root and Esther reached out to various charities and organisations to create something that might help: a telephone service that offered older people the opportunity to enjoy support, conversation, and all the wonderful benefits that come from talking to a friend.

In November 2013, The Silver Line Helpline opened its lines to older people across the UK. Since that first call, The Silver Line’s dedicated team of staff and volunteers have picked up the phone and spoken with millions of older people.

Friendship, support and guidance

While Age UK's Silver Line services have evolved over the years, our mission has remained the same – to support, connect with, and uplift older people.

Specifically, The Silver Line aims to:

  • Offer friendship, conversation and connection to the older people who call us and easing feelings of loneliness and social or physical isolation in the process.
  • Provide a 24-hour helpline for older people who are seeking practical information or guidance on issues that are affecting them.
  • Empower older people experiencing neglect or abuse to access the right protection and, if appropriate, connect them with specialist services who can help.
  • From the moment The Silver Line Helpline was established, it was essential that we be ready to pick up the phone to the people who need us at any hour of the day and night.

Over half of the calls that we receive are made overnight or at weekends, when few other telephone services or helplines are open for the people who need friendship, support or help.

Bob's story

Meet Bob Lowe, one of our most memorable and iconic Silver Line Community Ambassadors. Before Bob sadly passed away in 2021, he was kind enough to share with the world just how much our support meant to him – especially after losing his beloved wife, Kath.

Read Bob's tribute

No older person should have to endure feelings of loneliness

Find out more about the people The Silver Line Helpline supports and how the work we do affects the lives of older people in the UK.

Our impact

The next chapter of The Silver Line

Older lady gazing pensively at the camera

Thanks to the generous donations of our supporters, The Silver Line’s team of dedicated staff and volunteers continue to offer older people a vital lifeline.

Between March 2020 and March 2021, we received 270,000 calls from older people. During the 2020 UK-wide lockdown, there was a 30% increase in calls – especially from older feeling isolated and worried about the future.

Today, many people rely on technology to help them stay connected. But for many older people, talking with someone over the telephone is the only way they have of truly connecting with another person.

The world is always changing and while people will adapt to new circumstances, the fact remains that everyone – no matter who they are – needs to experience connection, comfort and friendship in their own way.

And for older people in the UK, when feelings of worry, isolation, frustration or loneliness strike, there is always someone you can call – us.

The Silver Line Helpline and Age UK

In 2019, The Silver Line and Age UK decided to join forces to help us support more older people. The Silver Line Helpline became a subsidiary charity of Age UK. 

In 2020, the two regular friendship services run by Age UK and The Silver Line Helpline were merged to form the Telephone Friendship Service. This newly combined Age UK service has gone from strength to strength, able to operate at a greater scale in order to support more lonely and isolated older people than ever before and now supporting many thousands of older people and volunteers. You can find out more about the Telephone Friendship Service on the Age UK website.

In 2022, The Silver Line became fully part of the charity Age UK. 

To find out more about the other services run by Age UK, such as the Age UK Advice Line, visit the Age UK website.

More from Age UK's Silver Line

Our people

We couldn’t support the people who need us without our amazing team of staff, volunteers, and senior leadership.

Age UK’s Silver Line Helpline is the UK's only free, confidential, 24-hour helpline providing friendship for older people.


Last updated: Jun 16 2023

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