Which phone is loved by many people

Corona pandemic: Telephoning against loneliness: Seniors can find help at this hotline

When Karin Tietke, 80, and Clara Hartmann, 22, talk about each other, you can hear their sympathy for one another. "Clara is attentive and pays attention to people," describes Tietke. "She is a very strong and cosmopolitan personality," says Hartmann. But the women, who are almost 58 years apart, have never seen each other. They have been on the phone every Friday afternoon for almost two months. They found each other through the “Telefon-Engel” campaign, which the Munich-based association Retla started in April last year to help lonely seniors during the corona pandemic.

“Social isolation and the feeling of being no longer needed is difficult for seniors. This is now intensified by the pandemic, "says Judith Prem, initiator and member of the board of the Retla Association, the name stands for age, written backwards. Prem would like to create a new perspective for old age and is committed to various projects for seniors. According to the Federal Statistical Office, 5.8 million people over 65 live alone in Germany. About every third person.

Lonely seniors can register for free

Lonely seniors can register for the "Telephone Angel" project free of charge by telephone. Then suitable interlocutors are sought who then call the senior citizens. The idea for the campaign came to Prem at the breakfast table with her family during the first lockdown. Over 300 helpers got in touch within two weeks. In the meantime, around 600 telephone sponsorships have been found throughout Germany, and over 1000 helpers from young people to 96-year-olds support the project. Sponsorships are arranged between people who could fit together and who live close to each other, so that a meeting is possible later if desired. Some couples talk on the phone every day, others only once a week.

According to Prem, notably few seniors called during the second lockdown. "Many feel a great shame to call in and admit that they are lonely." Callers are much more desperate compared to the first lockdown. Some had the note with the number lying around for a few months. Prominent patrons such as actress Michaela May and her colleague Elmar Wepper support the association and appeal to senior citizens that they should have the courage to get in touch. Both can be reached on the hotline for a few hours a week.

Elmar Wepper and Michaela May support the association

When she heard Elmar Wepper on a radio report, Karin Tietke picked up the phone. She remembers the first call from her “telephone angel” Clara Hartmann well: “When she called me, I laughed heartily. I told her that she is probably my fifth granddaughter. "

The two women quickly found topics to talk about and discovered similarities. Hartmann is studying medicine in his fifth semester in Munich. Tietke learned and worked, among other things, as an occupational therapist for people with mental and physical disabilities in a psychiatry and as an educator, and she volunteered as a pastor in the clinic and on the phone. “I'm someone who has always been with a lot of people in a lot of areas,” she says. At that time she was never alone in her life.

The elderly woman is severely restricted by various illnesses

"I'm married, have two sons and five grandchildren - I complain at a high level," says Tietke. She has been very lonely for several years, but Corona has made that worse. The call to the telephone hotline also cost them a lot of effort. When she and her husband moved from Munich to Augsburg into their condominium almost 13 years ago, it was difficult for her to make contacts. "The Swabians can't cope with the fact that I always say everything straightforwardly," reveals the native of Pomerania, who grew up in St. Peter-Ording.

Due to various diseases such as multiple sclerosis and strokes of fate, the fun-loving woman is now severely disabled and very limited in her life. She can no longer drive a car herself, and sometimes she doesn't have the right words due to the restriction in the language center. She especially lacks cycling, which she has loved since childhood. Whether singing in the church choir, exchanging ideas in the reading group or reading to children in the library - the senior citizen can no longer do anything. She has to rely on her 77-year-old husband, who is her carer but has cancer.

So far, the senior citizen and the student have never seen each other

“She is a strong woman who knows what she wants, she stands up for herself and speaks things clearly. I think that's admirable, "says Hartmann of her telephone godmother. They feel that they are a good match. She herself also knows what she wants. This always creates an interesting exchange. The conversations often inspired her.

The elderly woman says: “I am still flexible in spirit. Clara helps me with it. ”She is happy to have contacted the telephone hotline and hopes that other seniors will also have the courage to do so. She has a good relationship with her two sons, her daughters-in-law and her grandchildren. She is always the grandmother to her grandchildren. The age difference between Clara and her does not play a role, rather they met in conversations at eye level.

The two women have only spoken on the phone so far and don't even know what the other person actually looks like. Tietke can well imagine a meeting. Hartmann agrees: "It would be really nice to meet her in person."

Seniors can contact the “Telefon-Engel” hotline free of charge on 089/18910026 from Monday to Friday between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

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