Denis Robinson, 85, from Bulwell 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 roles in Brookside and The Royle Family will be presenting the appeal.
Denis will be telling the story of how the charity has helped him with issues of loneliness and isolation to showcase one of the vital services provided by Independent Age across the country.
Denis worked or the same local paper - The Hucknall Dispatch - from the age of 16 to his retirement. Nearly 70 years on, he still submits a monthly column and covers local events for the paper voluntarily.
During COVID lockdown, however, Denis began to feel increasingly lonely and isolated as he was unable to do many of the things that connected him to the wider world. Independent Age heard about Denis’ situation and reached out to him in 2021. Soon after this, their volunteering team matched him with Luke, a psychology student at the local university.
Describing his life before being contacted by Independent Age, Denis said:
“I’ve lived on my own for 15 years since my mum died. There used to be 5 people and a dog in this house, now there is just me. You can’t avoid loneliness when you live on your own.
“Life can seem like a vacuum, you drift from one day to another and it can be quite frightening. I need a focus, otherwise life can seem quite meaningless.
“My dad used to say ‘wait until you get to my age’ and it’s true. You are old before you realise how precious life is, every day is a bonus.”
Denis and Luke initially spoke over the phone and having quickly hit it off decided to meet in person once a week. Luke recently moved to London so while they see each other less, they still keep in touch over the phone. On the afternoon the appeal was filmed, Luke had travelled back up to Bulwell to spend time with Denis.
When talking about how Luke and Independent Age have helped him, Denis explains:
“Being introduced to Luke was great. It gave me a big, big boost and would be the highlight of my week […] He is over 60 years younger than me which I thought could be a problem at first, but he makes me feel young again. He came to my birthday party this year and gave me a gift of a pen – which is great for a journalist! We’ve also attended Independent Age events together, including an event for the jubilee earlier this year.
“Just the fact that Independent Age has taken an interest in me has made a difference. I don’t hear from many people now apart from immediate family, so the charity has really boosted my confidence. It’s encouraging to know you’ve not been forgotten or overlooked just because you’ve got older. It can be easy to think no-one cares anymore. I’ve been to a lunch with Independent Age, they even arranged my transport. I gave a speech of thanks at the end, it made me feel like I still have something to contribute.
“It’s hard to imagine life if Independent Age hadn’t reached out to me. I can ring them up if I feel a bit lost. They have been a lifeline to me and I’m very grateful for them.”
Denis still interacts with Independent Age regularly through local events and the helpline, which he rings if he ever needs advice on anything.
Fran McSweeney, Head of National Services at Independent Age, said:
“We would like to thank Denis and Luke for taking part in this appeal. In sharing their story with the public, they 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 Nottinghamshire will get behind Denis and tune in to the appeal!”
The appeal will be shown first on Sunday 13 November on BBC1 and then repeated on BBC 2 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