You are not alone

“I was ill, and I was afraid to leave my house. I wanted someone to keep me company, and then, Gigliola from the Italian Red Cross arrived. […] She helped me regain the serenity that I had lost. She is my friend,” says Anna.

Anna is an elderly woman who lives alone. Having gone through a period of illness, the fear of leaving her home further isolates her. Like Anna, thousands of people in Italy are struggling with loneliness. Social isolation can seriously affect a person’s mental health and cause problems in their daily lives. In the long term, loneliness and social isolation can be associated with feelings of vulnerability, threat, and anxiety.

To respond to the needs of people who find themselves isolated from their community, the Italian Red Cross has established "CRI Per le Persone” (Italian Red Cross for People). Launched in June 2019, it aims to provide support to lonely people through a variety of services, such as home care and tele-assistance. An integral part of the activity’s setup is a strong network of local actors in the social sector that offer a broad spectrum of assistance and support. Access to all CRI Per le Persone services is organised through a national telephone hotline.

National hotline

The hotline is the first point of contact for those who need a helping hand. Red Cross operators working for the hotline conduct a needs assessment with each caller to determine which sorts of services are most suitable for them. People struggling with loneliness may also need help with daily tasks like organising the household, doing the shopping, or seeing the doctor. A very important form of support can also be a dedicated operator calling up the lonely person once a week to check in and keep them company. If necessary, operators might suggest psychosocial support, which would often start with three sessions and may continue with a referral to a specialist.

Who calls the hotline?

Between June 2019 and January 2020, the national telephone hotline received 24.657 phone calls, an average of 125 phone calls per day. 66% of the phone calls received from people in the age of 65 to 90; 26% from people from 35 to 65 years; 6% from people over 90; and 2% from under 30. The average age of callers is 74 years with a slight majority of women (55% women, 45% men). Only 2810 of the call requests led to referrals, most of the requests were received from elderly people suffering from loneliness. The high number of calls is only interrupted on Sundays when elderly people are more likely to receive visits from their families.

Joy and contact

Since the service has been running, callers have contacted the hotline to ask for help with various types of problems. The key to making CRI per le Persone so useful has been to put the individual’s situation and needs at the centre so as to identify meaningful support that can make a difference.

“On television, I saw a volunteer who caressed someone. That was exactly what I was missing: human contact. As soon as I saw the hotline number, I called and they came: my angels,” shares Clara. The 90-year-old woman felt lonely until she called the hotline. Now she receives regular visits from Italian Red Cross volunteers. “We spend two or three hours together and I am happy. We play cards and I make sure that they win. Otherwise they will not come back,” says Clara, laughing.

Basic information

Activity name

CRI Per le Persone

Country

Italy

Duration

ongoing

Partners

Italian Red Cross

URL

Project Website (in Italian)

Note: Read more about CRI Per le Persone here.  

For further information about older-age social exclusion at the EU level, see also AGE Platform Europe.