An Ottawa-based phone line lends an ear to lonely seniors in isolation
By Erika Morris
A Friendly Voice is a phone line where trained volunteers chat with those over 55 or older who are lonely or struggling in social isolation. Created and run by Rural Ottawa South Support Services (ROSSS), the phone line can also put people in touch with other community services, such as Meals on Wheels.
A Friendly Voice’s volunteers offer an empathetic and supportive ear for seniors. The goal is to encourage callers to engage with their community, and all calls are confidential.
Loneliness can hit seniors particularly hard, and a simple conversation can go a long way. Some seniors may not have access to a computer or smartphone, or may not know how to use them, which can make it difficult to stay connected.
Those who don’t have anyone to reach out to can also benefit from A Friendly Voice. However, the service isn’t meant to be a counselling or crisis line, and any distress calls are referred to appropriate responders.
The phone line is available every day from 8 a.m. to midnight. Those in the Ottawa area can call 613-692-9992, and those outside the 613 area code can can the toll-free number: 1-855-892-9992.
Statistics Canada estimates that 1.6 million elderly Canadians feel lonely, which can lead to significant physical and health issues for seniors that are as concerning as obesity, alcoholism, or smoking.
“Research has shown that conversation can be a gateway for seniors to move from loneliness to greater connection and engagement with their community, leading to better overall health and well-being,” reads a statement of the service’s website.
ROSSS has been active in delivering rural community support services to seniors, people with disabilities, and caregivers for the last seven years. A Friendly Voice is the result of a three-year grant from The Trillium Foundation of Ontario.