For Oregonians over the age of 55, Lines for Life and Clackamas County are offering a way to connect, even in the age of quarantines and social distancing: the Senior Loneliness Line (SLL).
“Clackamas County is the ongoing funder of the program, but … anyone in the state of Oregon can use it, which I’m really glad to report, especially now with everything going on,” said Bill Fitzpatrick, Lines for Life’s senior services coordinator.
Fitzpatrick described the line as “a 24/7/365 emotional support and connection” service.
“We do everything from information, resources and referrals, to crisis intervention and suicide prevention, to abuse detection reporting,” Fitzpatrick said. He added that the line can also make regularly scheduled calls to keep in touch with seniors who request it.
“It’s like a one-stop-shop for anyone 55-years and older in Oregon,” he said.
According to the SLL website, nearly one in five adults over the age of 50 is at risk for social isolation. With social distancing guidelines in place and the additional risk of coronavirus for seniors, that number may be rising. Fitzpatrick described the influx of calls the line has received since the virus started to take hold as “totally bananas.”
“This is, far and away, our busiest month we’ve had since the launch,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think we got about 800 calls, and I have every reason to believe that’s going to be either the new normal, or it will increase in the coming weeks and months. So the utilization rate has been much higher than what we would normally see.”
Though there are often volunteers on the line, at this time Fitzpatrick said that staff is working remotely and the only people answering calls are “master’s level staff.” All phone-workers, volunteer or paid, undergo extensive training to be the best resource to callers they can be.
“Probably the most common question is ‘what’s it going to be like when I call?’” Fitzpatrick said. “And in a sense, it’s no different from chatting with somebody that you might run into in town, or something like that.”
Everything discussed is completely confidential, there’s no paperwork and the callers can lead the conversation to be whatever they need. The staff has a clinical background, but they’re also just happy to talk to seniors seeking some connection and companionship.
The service is run out of Portland, and there is currently no way to volunteer remotely. However, those who would like to support the line can do so monetarily online at www.linesforlife.org/donate.
For more information about the line, visit seniorlonelinessline.org. To speak with someone on the Senior Loneliness Line, call 503-200-1633.