Children befriending the old & lonely in nationwide first

Children from Torpoint Infant School reading to Dame Esther Rantzen. Credit: ITV West Country

Young children are helping the elderly and vulnerable cope with loneliness in a ground-breaking initiative here in the South West.

In a nationwide first, six and seven year olds from Torpoint Nursery and Infant School call local pensioners under supervision, have a chat with them and then read them a short story or poem.

When Dame Esther Rantzen heard how the pupils were reading over the phone to the elderly in their community, she's given the scheme her network of support.

Year Two pupils read once a week in a controlled environment bringing the generations together. Student readers Finn Clark and Olivia Burton explain how the system works.

Dame Esther set up her own Silverline phone service for the elderly who needed someone to talk to. She says this scheme at Torpoint is a great parallel.

There are some quite lonely older people and people who don't have the benefit of conversations and contact with younger people. I hope that this concept will spread, so once people hear about it, I'm sure it will spread. Silver stories is a wonderful idea.

Dame Esther
The children have been inundated with positive feedback from taking part in the scheme. Credit: ITV West Country

Torpoint has a large population of elderly people and the children benefit from reading to someone who won't judge them. Plus, with the backing of such a well known personality this small school scheme will almost certainly be copied by schools across the country.

Ian Axton has been speaking to one of the readers 7-year-old Seren Hall, and Dame Esther, one of the most high profile champions of tackling loneliness.

Watch the interview below: