For many older individuals, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the loss of daily anonymous contacts, such as small talk with unknown individuals on the bus or in shops. Calling a helpline can help fill this missing aspect of daily life. This is the finding of a summer 2020 study of calls to Äldrelinjen, a helpline for older people.
Social Work at Uppsala University.
Photo: David Naylor
“The most interesting finding was that individuals who call Äldrelinjen spoke of the loss of anonymous contacts with people who they did not have a personal relationship with but who provided confirmation of their existence. Äldrelinjen seems to have helped with this. Unlike other helplines that focus on specific problems, like anxiety, here you can call for small talk,” says Clara Iversen, a researcher vid Department of Sociology at Uppsala University. “The line has also offered a way to create abstract relationships, a sense of a larger ‘we’ that is united in the crisis.”
Äldrelinjen is run by the organisation Mind and has expanded its operations during the pandemic with additional volunteers. When the study was conducted in June-August 2020, 350 volunteers were linked to the helpline. The researchers received the participants’ consent to record 108 calls and of these, 64 that mentioned COVID-19 were chosen.