The Power of Contact

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 This year marks 50 years that Contact the Elderly has been supporting lonely older people to provide a lifeline of interaction and friendship.

The beauty of Contact’s approach is its simplicity. Once a month volunteers all over the country organise Sunday afternoon tea parties for people aged 75+ who live alone and are isolated. A volunteer hosts the party in their home, and others drive the older guests to the event and take them home afterwards.

Over 50% of all people over 75 live alone and a heart-breaking five million older people say the TV is their main form of company. Last year we helped the Contact the Elderly declare a state of emergency to galvanise action to tackle loneliness once and for all.

From speaking to the older people being helped through Contact’s work we know it’s the face-to-face interaction that makes all the difference to their lives. It may just be a couple of hours, conversation, tea and cake, but the regular human-interaction to look forward to offers hope that interrupts the monotony of days, weeks and months spent alone. (Click to listen in on a tea party recorded by BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, click play on Dolly Parton’s face and select the ‘combatting loneliness’ segment.)

 The ask made of volunteers is relatively small – a couple of hours once a month. But the impact is huge. I see this first-hand having set up a new tea party group in Peterborough, where Stand’s out-of-London office is based. At a recent event, 94-year-old Joan made us all pause and think when she said, “When I was young I always wondered why old people talk so much. Now I realise it’s because we have to make the most of the opportunity when we get it.”

If that’s not testament to the #powerofcontact I don’t know what is.

We’re now working with Contact the Elderly in their jubilee year to recruit more volunteers and set up new tea party groups across the country. If you think you could help provide a lifeline to older people in your area, now is the time to step-up.

Nyree Ambarchian is an Associate Director of Stand Agency and a volunteer for Contact the Elderly.

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