The Friendship Hotline

“More than 40 years ago, the Friendship Line was founded on the belief that connection to others is what binds us to life. In that time, it’s become a vital ‘warm line’ resource for those struggling with a variety of emotions including loneliness, despair, anxiety, and loss of hope. Every day, this toll-free service provides emotional support to people of all ages….”

This quote is the introduction to a unique program developed by Dr. Patrick Arbore who recently passed away at age 75. The Friendship Line currently operates only in California.

This 24-hour hotline received over 15,000 calls from San Francisco Bay Area senior citizens in one year. In 2020 (the latest year data was available), there were an average of 41 calls per day with a total of 958 calls coming from Sonoma County alone in that year. For California counties, this was the 4th highest rate of calls to the Friendship Hotline.

Seniors took advantage of this hotline service most frequently during the pandemic, which makes sense considering the isolation experienced by many elders who couldn’t visit with family and friends. Isolation and skyrocketing rates of depression and decreasing quality of life for the elderly were widespread, especially in 2020 and 2021.

Statewide, the hotline still receives an average of 350,000 calls a year from California residents who are lonely, isolated and in need of somebody to talk to. This service is staffed by volunteers who speak both English and Spanish. It is currently managed by California’s Institute on Aging.

Friendly conversations and crisis support for callers is offered mostly to the elderly or disabled. Volunteers are trained to listen and will stay on the line with callers as long as needed.

To verify the continuation of this hotline, I called the number ((888) 670-1360) and spoke briefly with a female volunteer. I didn’t want to tie her up for long, but she was happy to know I’d be sharing this valuable resource with The Joy of Aging Gratefully readers.

Is calling such a service or crisis support or just a friendly ear something you’d consider ever doing?