Contact the Elderly: A Lifeline of Friendship

Contact the Elderly organise monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for people aged 75 and over, who live alone with little or no support from friends, family or statutory services. The afternoons are full of fun and laughter and make a real difference to the lives of their older guests.

Supported by a network of volunteers, the charity organises monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for small groups of older people, aged 75 and over, who live alone. Offering a regular and vital friendship link every month.

Each older person is collected from their home by a volunteer driver and taken to a volunteer host’s home for the afternoon. The group is warmly welcomed by a different host each month, but the drivers remain the same which means that over the months and years, acquaintances turn into friends and loneliness is replaced by companionship.

The tea parties are a real lifeline of friendship for our older guests who have little or no contact with family or friends. They bring people of all ages together, develop fulfilling friendships and support networks, and give everyone involved something to look forward to each month.

The group activity encourages:

  • Inter-generational links
  • Friendships to develop between older group members and volunteers


The groups:

  • Operate at weekends, when most community services for older people are not available. Moreover, Sunday has been highlighted to us by older guests as being a particularly lonely day of the week.
  • Are kept purposely small, and they meet in the welcoming environment of someone’s home.

Increasingly, research highlights the link between loneliness and ill-health in later life, including depression, certain heart conditions and even Alzheimer’s disease.

The Story Behind Contact the Elderly

In the early 1960’s, Trevor Lyttleton MBE, met an older lady who lived near him in Marylebone. She had no electricity in her house and was entirely alone. He discovered from the Welfare Department that she was one of many hundreds in the borough in a similar position.

Together with a few friends he decided to do something about it. They visited twelve older people whose names they had been given by the Marylebone Welfare Department and invited them to come to Hampton Court on the first Sunday in March 1965.

From this small start, Trevor decided to set up further groups and in September 1965 they were granted charitable status to enable them to raise funds to advertise for volunteers.

Trevor says: “I received a Christmas card from one of the old ladies simply saying ‘at last I have something to live for!’ and I think this more than anything else made me realise how much more we could do and so we decided to set up other groups.”

This small act of kindness grew into what is today a national charity with groups in every region of England, as well as Wales and Scotland. Trevor is still involved as the charity’s Chairman, and the group he started in 1965 is still going strong.

If you would like to learn more about Contact the Elderly, including how to become a volunteer or a guest, click here.



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