Helena hits the high note for SeniorLine

Posted on 7th March 2018

SeniorLine volunteer Helena Scanlan heard of SeniorLine through her parish bulletin and for her the timing was just right. “I had been thinking about volunteering, when I read about the work of SeniorLine, I saw it as fitting perfectly with what I would like to do. I feel that older people and children are two sections of the population that can be particularly vulnerable,” she said

Also, Helena, a mother with four adult children, feels she is at a good stage in her life. “My life is good. Myself and my husband are healthy. Three months ago, we had our first grandchild, a source of great joy in our home. I feel at this stage I have a little time to give.”

No stranger to volunteering, Helena volunteers every three weeks in the Daffodil Centre at St Luke’s Hospital in Rathgar, meeting patients and families, and providing leaflets and information. “We do a lot of listening, a bit like SeniorLine really”. She is also a member of her parish choir and as well as providing music and liturgy for the church, the choir perform outside, fundraising for a number of charities. “I have been singing for over 40 years. When I came to Dublin first, I joined the Dublin Grand Opera Society, I enjoyed it, but it was quite demanding. Being a member of a parish choir is wonderful, and I have made lifelong friends. On a cold winter’s night, you wouldn’t feel like going out to a chilly parish hall, and then a few hours later, you are going home and feeling really good”, she says. Helena is also a prime mover in the development of the SeniorLine choir fundraising on Grafton Street each Christmas.

She said she had no particular expectations when she enrolled in Senior Line’s five-day training course: “I came with an open mind; I was prepared to listen and learn to see what I can do. I suppose the main message I took from training was to listen to each caller with an open heart and an open mind and respond as best I could. I found the training to be excellent. It covered everything that I would need. I don’t know about learning any new skills, but I took from it an emphasis on compassion towards callers, the hope that I could be there for them, and by that I could help them help themselves,” she said.  

Helena has been s volunteer for almost four years, doing a three-hour rota in our Leopardsown centre once every three weeks. “A lot of callers contact for a chat, possibly through loneliness. They want to talk about ordinary things, every day occurrences, they may want to reminisce about the past. When callers phone with a specific problem, I have the chance to use the skills I learnt in training, not offer them advice or a solution, let them talk as much as they need which can help them find their own way.  Such calls can be very satisfying, and I don’t come home feeling worried or sad. I feel, I hope, I may have helped”.

She feels the need for and the work of SeniorLine says something about the lives of older people in today’s Ireland. “I feel that many older people are left behind, and forgotten about. Those living on their own may have an especially difficult life, they can be worried about so many things with nobody to share it with. I think SeniorLine is a very worthwhile service. People tell us it is, they thank us for being there, they tell how important we are to them. We might be the only contact in their lives. 

“I am not sure how SeniorLine could be improved. I know we are constantly trying to promote the service so that more older people will know our Freephone number and call us.  I think we also have an important role in using the information we get from our callers about their needs and fears, and working to translate these into policies and services. Since I joined SeniorLine, I have become more aware of the needs of older people, and feel that it has given me perhaps a much wider take on things. SeniorLine has an important advocacy role,” she says.

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The coronavirus is a particular threat to older people and subsequently, SeniorLine has put in place a number of protocols to support our many older callers from all over Ireland. Any caller, concerned about COVID-19, will receive the most up to date guidance as recommended by Government sources. Good health practice is reinforced at all times. This information is updated daily as the situation changes and is available to each of our volunteers at the phones.

SeniorLine is a FREEPHONE service and our older callers can call free between 10 am and 10 pm every day of the year on 1800804591