Former TV star Dame Esther Rantzen said lonely older people could feel like their front door ‘is a brick wall they can’t get through’ after she made a speech in Sheffield.
The founder of The Silver Line helpline visited Sheffield Hallam University for an event examining ways to help older people stay active.
She also praised Sheffield’s Glora Stewart, who organises Christmas lunches for lonely older folk every year.
Dame Rantzen, who had spoken to around 200 people, said: “I met Gloria here a couple of weeks ago, I’m a huge fan as it is a lovely thing to do.”
She said the main barriers that stopped people from being active were physical, but added: “Also you can get the problem that loneliness erodes self confidence so badly that you feel nobody wants you and your front door has become a brick wall you can’t get through.
“And so you become more and more isolated and I think those are the people that I’m hoping the helpline can reach out to.”
Dame Rantzen was at the university’s collegiate campus for the speech and joked that she was ‘used to’ being the oldest person in the room.
Sheffield Hallam University has experts in rehabilitation, seen as crucial in helping people get over injury and illness, and has research centres that develop new solutions to help older people keep active.
Ruth Allerton, head of department of Allied Health Professions at Sheffield Hallam University, said “Apart from allowing people to live longer and healthier lives, effective rehabilitation can also relieve pressure on the NHS and save vital resources.
“Sheffield Hallam experts and researchers have pioneered everything from designing new products to make it easier for people to move around their house, to new methods of promoting exercise and creative arts to help people stay physically and mentally healthy. So we welcome the opportunity to share our knowledge with others to help improve older people’s quality of life.”
The 24-hour The Silver Line received 300,000 calls in its first year and offers information, friendship and advice.
It is seeking volunteers and Sheffield Hallam students will be asked to help in future.
To call the line telephone