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Loneliness is “New Normal” for Many Older People

Published on 17 June 2021 11:00 PM

Age NI launches fundraising campaign to combat loneliness for older people

20,000 Check In and Chat calls made – Charity drive to reach more older people

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.

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 explained, “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 life saver”.

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 said, “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.

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 which 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

To find out more, or to make a donation, visit our appeal page 


Last updated: Jul 04 2023

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