Fiona Hall, 72, from Doncaster will appear as part of the BBC Lifeline Appeal on Sunday 13 November at 1:50pm on BBC1 to advocate for the work that Independent Age does for older people across the UK.
Sue Johnstone OBE, best known for her iconic roles in Brookside and The Royle Family, will be presenting the appeal.
Fiona has suffered with loneliness and depression, and can often go 3-6 weeks without seeing anyone. She struggles with mobility and finds it difficult to leave the house. Through her mental health worker, Fiona was put in touch with Independent Age who, alongside other advice and support, suggested she join one of the charity’s weekly telephone groups. These are designed for people who may not be comfortable online, but still want to interact with others.
Talking about her experience of loneliness, Fiona said:
“When I’m depressed everything seems hopeless and grey. I have a lot of health conditions and when you’re on your own, that can make you feel isolated and desperate.
“There are some things I just can’t do, no matter how hard I try - that’s difficult to accept. I still feel 18 inside, but my body certainly isn’t!
“Loneliness to me is no-one to talk to, no-one to laugh with. Even happy things aren’t the same when you haven’t got someone to share it with. My loneliness is waking up at 3am and wondering what the point is.”
The phone groups consist of 5-7 older people and an Independent Age volunteer facilitator who ensures the call runs smoothly and everyone gets a chance to speak.
The calls are organised by Independent Age for six months, helping members increase their social connectedness and confidence. After this time the charity steps back, and instead provides the tools and support for the group to maintain their friendships independent of the organisation.
Talking about the help she has received from Independent Age,Fiona said:
“Hearing about Independent Age was like opening a lock. Suddenly there was someone I could call and say ‘I’ve got a problem, how do I solve this?’ They’ve helped me in so many ways – forming friendships, giving me financial advice and helping me access support I had no idea existed.
“The weekly calls are just like having a group of friends round to your house. We catch up on each other's news, talk about our grandchildren and swap stories. When you’re on your own, small things can escalate and you feel like you’re the only one struggling. Sharing it with other people makes you feel less alone.
“I love the exercises we’re given too. It’s like someone has given you permission to sit and read a poem, or try writing some poetry of your own. The housework can wait!
“These calls really break up the week. It’s lovely to hear what everyone has been up to, and the different exercises really help my mental health. Thank you to Independent Age for everything you do.”
Fran McSweeney, Head of National Services at Independent Age, said:
“We would like to thank Fiona for taking part in this appeal. In sharing her story with the public, Fiona will make a huge difference in raising awareness of the issues older people are facing, and letting people know that help is available through Independent Age.
“We hope the people of Doncaster will get behind Fiona and tune in to the appeal!”
The appeal will be shown first on Sunday 13 November on BBC1 and then repeated on BBC2 on Tuesday 15 November at 8:50am. The appeal will stay open for 3 weeks and will be available on the Lifeline website: BBC One - Lifeline, Independent Age