New phone line lends lonely seniors a friendly ear
'A Friendly Voice' connects older Ontarians across the region with conversation
An Ottawa organization is hoping a simple phone call to someone with the time to listen can help seniors struggling with loneliness.
Rural Ottawa South Support Services is now operating a line called "A Friendly Voice" which allows seniors to call in and get a sympathetic ear.
Kelly Dumas, the organization's executive director, said the agency believes there's a real need for such a service.
"There is such a large population of seniors who are lonely and isolated and just want a person to talk to," she said.
"We see this really being open to anyone who is of senior age that just needs a friend."
Not a crisis service
Dumas said while the line isn't designed as a crisis service, they have put together an extensive training program for volunteers so they can direct people to the right resources and handle any situation.
They've received a $750,000 provincial grant to get the line up and running and hope to eventually expand its reach.
Callers can dial in anywhere in the greater Ottawa area, from Pembroke in the west to Hawkesbury in the east.
The line, available locally at 613-692-9992 or toll-free at 1-855-892-9992, is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Dumas said they plan to expand the line to all of eastern Ontario, then northern Ontario.
The agency based the line on a similar service in the United Kingdom called the Silver Line, which receives about 10,000 calls a week, Dumas said.
Leeanne Van der Burgt took calls over the weekend and said that all conversation topics are on the table.
The agency doesn't provide advice or counselling, but Van der burgt, its manager of outreach and fundraising, believes just being a good listener will go a long way.
"I am game for politics. I am game for religion. I am game for whatever they want to talk about," she said.