ISOLATED pensioners left feeling cut off by coronavirus have been urged to dial Age Scotland’s helpline for reassurance and friendly chat.

Scottish ministers yesterday gave the older people’s charity an extra £80,000 to help bolster their popular chatline.

The funding boost, which should help the charity’s helpline handle an extra 1500 calls a day, was announced as part of a £350 million funding package for welfare and wellbeing being made available to councils, charities, businesses and community groups.

The over-70s are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus and have been urged to keep their distance from others. During a visit to Age Scotland’s HQ in Edinburgh, Nicola Sturgeon said the recommendation to avoid any unnecessary social contact was about saving lives.

The First Minister said: “They should be staying home as much as possible, reducing unnecessary social interaction. I know that’s going to be difficult, particularly for older people like my own mum and dad who see my niece and look after my niece after school.

“To cut that kind of social interaction is going to be tough but it is for their own protection because we know that in the elderly population there is more vulnerability to becoming seriously ill with coronavirus and in a small number of cases – but every case matters – dying from it.

“So this is very much for the protection of older people.”

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Sturgeon added: “These measures will reduce the risk for all of us of getting this virus but they will also reduce the risk that if we do become infected we’re not passing it on to other people – particularly people who might be vulnerable.

“This is not the Government telling you to do difficult things for the sake of it, these are not decisions we are taking lightly, this is not advice we’re giving lightly, it’s for the protection of all of us and to save lives.

“So my advice to people generally is to follow this guidance for good reason – do the right thing here.”

Sturgeon said despite measures aimed at keeping people apart physically “that doesn’t mean we are not trying to help and show care and kindness and love to people”.

Suggesting measures people can take to look after older and more vulnerable people, Sturgeon advised regularly calling relatives to check up and offer practical assistance to them and any elderly neighbours, such as doing their shopping.

“For all older people, if they need somebody and they don’t have somebody in their own networks then the Age Scotland helpline is here to offer that friendly voice but also to offer some really practical advice and assistance.

“We’re working really hard to make sure that, in these difficult times ahead, no one is falling through the cracks and we’ve all got a part to play just looking out for each other.

“If we do that then we’ll get through this difficult period a lot better,” she added.

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Brian Sloan, Age Scotland’s chief executive, said: “This is a concerning time for many older people and it is important that they have access to the most up to date, and trustworthy, information and advice as Scotland adapts to Covid-19.

“We are delighted that the Scottish Government are making a further investment in the Age Scotland Helpline so that we can scale up our efforts to provide information, friendship and advice to older people, their families and carers at this critical time. This will also help us increase the number of friendship calls we make to older people across Scotland who may have no one else to talk to as they socially distance themselves, providing them reassurance and a friendly chat,” he added.

Age Scotland’s free, confidential helpline is available on 0800 12 44 222 Monday to Friday. The phone line is available from 9am to 5pm.