New Red Cross data reveals that in 2018, Red Cross volunteers made over 1.1 million calls to elderly and isolated Australians in need of a friendly chat to ensure they are safe and well.
Kerry McGrath, Director Community Programs, Australian Red Cross says, “In a digital era, the Red Cross telephone service continues to be so popular, particularly among some of the older members of our community who enjoy an old fashioned conversation to a digital check in.”
“Nearly 50 years ago, the service was established in response to stories of older people being found deceased and alone, and it has indeed filled a vital gap, and now our services responding to community isolation grow each year.
“We’re finding increasingly people want more than a welfare check and instead they prefer a longer chat and ultimately want human connection, which can be the difference between just existing and living.
“We are in all sorts of spaces which encourage connection, from community visitors to community gardens, where friendships form between people who may not even make eye contact on a busy street in one of our state’s capitals,” she says.
At 89 years of age, one of Red Cross’s longest standing clients, Nina has been receiving daily calls since turning 80. She says she values the sense of safety and comfort the service gives her.
“Living alone, Red Cross is my comfort blanket. I wake up and I know I’m going to have a little chat at 7am on the dot, like an alarm clock, and it makes me feel a little better about the day.
“I look forward to my calls and having someone to talk to. They have been my lifeline for a long time and you need that when you get older,” she says.
Thirty something Gizel Matta works full time in Sydney and has been a Saturday volunteer since 2014. She wakes up earlier on the weekend than she would on a regular weekday to set off and make the friendly morning call.
“I started because I thought it was a wonderful way to give back to the community. Once I started, I realised the extraordinary difference the calls make to people and kept going back.
“For some people who are unable to leave their homes, or are a little isolated for health reasons, these calls are what they look forward to every morning – they really appreciate it, the calls make them feel cared for.
“At the end of a 2 hour shift, it’s such a positive feeling knowing you’ve made someone’s day by a simple gesture of saying hello and having a chat,” she says.
About the programs
- Telecross: A daily phone call for elderly and isolated people to check they are okay.
- Telechat: A longer social phone call for elderly people who want a little companionship and a longer conversation.
- Teleyarn: A culturally appropriate service, which gives elderly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people the opportunity to connect over a longer phone call.
Red Cross holds its annual ‘Bring More Good to the World’ appeal this June. You can make a donation at redcross.org.au