Need information and support? Call the Volunteer Call Centre for Seniors in Riga!

Volunteers are vital to address the main problem of the project “Let us be active!”- social exclusion and loneliness of older people through the improvement of information and development of new opportunities for voluntary work. In order to make information on volunteering options more accessible for seniors as well as to support them emotionally, the concept of a volunteer call centre for seniors has been implemented in Riga.

Following the successful meetings with the representatives of senior organizations and social workers, these seniors who had applied for voluntary work in the call centre, were invited to participate in the workshops on 3 and 10 February to receive theoretical knowledge and necessary practical skills. The leading specialists in geriatrics introduced the topic of active ageing to the workshop attendees. Daina Zepa, internist, geriatrician and cardiologist from Riga East University Hospital explained that active ageing is a process that allows people to realize their potential for physical, social and mental wellbeing throughout the life course and remain socially active. Janis Zalkalns, Head of Geriatric clinic talked about ageing as one of the greatest social and economic challenges of the 21st century for European societies. Both lecturers provided convincing reasons why to be active and engage in voluntary work. Significant part of the workshop was devoted to improvement of telephone communication skills as there is no doubt that these skills are essential to handling phone calls effectively. Elina Kusiniceva, social worker from the day care centre in Riga and working daily with various people, introduced the top qualities of a successful call centre volunteer.  Elina has been a volunteer herself and could share her experience on volunteering issues. Theoretical part was followed by situation games when the attendees were split into groups and could practice calls between callers and “call operators”.

On 8 February  the volunteer Call centre for seniors was launched. The call centre operation is managed by three senior volunteers every week day from 10:00 to 14:00. The seniors volunteering in the call centre can freely choose their volunteer work days based on their availability and willingness. It is planned that the call centre will be operating on the project basis for at least eight months. The call centre is established for older people but there are no strict age limits, however, most people who call are over 65. After receiving the call, the call centre operators offer to call back to those who would prefer not to spend their means.  The main functions of the call centre is to provide information about voluntary work options and leisure time activities in Riga, offer information on various activities for seniors or simply to chat with those who feel neglected and lonely. Callers are free to express their feelings and describe their lives – they will be understood and their privacy will be respected.

Although only a few weeks have passed since the call centre has been up and running, it has proved to be crucial for both – volunteers and callers. The calls have already revealed the truth about our older people ”who don’t want to be a burden  because there are so many people worse off than I am” and at the same time they feel lonely and ignored. In a rather short time the volunteer call centre has turned out to be a place where volunteers come with pleasure. Janina from the Federation of Latvian Retired Persons is happy to volunteer in the call centre: “I feel good because I see that I can help others just with a word.“