Since the start of the pandemic, the Canadian Mental Health Association has seen a 43 percent increase in calls to The Support Line, many coming from seniors who are feeling scared, vulnerable, lonely and isolated.
“It was an issue even before the pandemic,” says Lori Hassall, Director of Crisis and Short-term Interventions at Canadian Mental Health Association Middlesex. “We were already getting a lot of calls from seniors who don’t have supports in the community. Some folks would call every day just to talk to a person.”
Thanks to a $10,000 grant from United Way Elgin Middlesex through the Government of Canada’s Seniors Response Fund, CMHA launched Friendly Callers, a new outreach program matching trained volunteers with seniors across Elgin and Middlesex counties.
The regular call is a chance to check in with seniors, chat and give social support. But it’s also a chance for volunteers to connect seniors to local services like Meals on Wheels, the closest neighbourhood resource centre, or the City of London Age Friendly Network to ensure they’re getting the supports they need.
“There’s so much research now about the impact of loneliness on physical and mental health,” Hassall says. “Social connection is the antidote to that.“
Seniors who might benefit from the Friendly Callers program are being identified in partnership with the Geriatric Mental Health program at London Health Sciences Centre. CMHA is also reaching out to long-term care, retirement homes and other organizations and community groups that support seniors. Individuals are also welcome to self-refer.
Get connected to Friendly Callers
If you, your parents, your neighbours, or any senior you know would like to participate in this program, call CMHA at 519-434-9191 ext. 2223 or email firstname.lastname@example.org Monday to Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.