DEMAND for a hotline which helps worried older people has rocketed by nearly 40% in the three years since it was launched.
The Silver Line service has been inundated with thousands of calls from OAPs – mainly women – concerned about anything from care costs and welfare changes to heating bills.
New figures show the Age Scotland 24-hour hotline dealt with nearly 15,000 calls last year, up from the 10,200 received in 2013/14.
Heather Smith, the charity’s information and advice manager, said worries over personal finances, care homes and pensions were among the most common calls.
She explained: “Picking up the phone and saying ‘I need help’ would be difficult for anyone and for a lot of people they call us as they don’t know where to begin.
“If you or your family has been lucky enough to not need the care system for the past 30 years, why would you know how things work?
“The majority of our calls are from women, something we can’t really explain, and are mostly from older people but a fair amount is from family members too.
“Welfare has been a big issue in recent years.
“The impression is given that benefits is an issue for working-age people and older people are ok with their pensions, but far from it. The pension age is becoming a huge deal. Soon it is going to be 67 before people collect their pension and for many this is a big shock.
“We have had people in tears on the line because during the course of the conversation they realise they are going to have to work for years longer than they thought.
“For many, they can’t afford to do anything else but they might be physically worn out or they have caring responsibilities.”
Figures from Age Scotland show that in 2013/14 a total of 10,781 people called Silver Line, including 1285 health queries, 2640 benefits-related questions and 953 calls about care homes.
By 2015/16 the total number of calls hit 14,901, with health queries topping 2428, 5558 questions on benefits and 1842 calls about care homes.
Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “We know the integration of health and social care services has not been plain sailing and the spike in calls to what is a lifeline service for many older people shows the level of concern that people have over benefits and access to personal care.
“Too many older people are still not receiving the help they need at the time they need it most.”
Scottish Minister for Older People Jeane Freeman said: “Tackling social isolation and loneliness is a priority for this government.
“That is why we have supported Silver Line Scotland with £105,000 of funding.
“This is in addition to our £500,000 new Social Isolation and Loneliness Fund which funds 36 organisations to help tackle isolation and loneliness.”
You can call Silver Line Scotland on 0800 470 8090 – the only free, confidential helpline providing information, friendship and advice to older people, open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.