OTTAWA -- Being alone at home is difficult for anyone during the COVID-19 pandemic, but can be especially challenging for seniors.

Now, anyone 55 and up has a “Friendly Voice" to chat with. Rural Ottawa South Support Services (ROSSS) has setup a phone line for seniors who are struggling with loneliness or social isolation

Trained volunteers answer the call to chat, but they can also help arrange for community services, such as Meals on Wheels.

ROSSS’ Kelly Dumas says there was a simple reason for setting up the phone line.

“There was a growing crisis around isolation, particularly for seniors, and that there needed to be an accessible means for them to be able to connect with people.”

While some seniors are using video chat software to connect with others, not everyone has access to a computer or the ability to use one.

“So we felt that a telephone line would be a good way, since most seniors can still operate a telephone line versus a computer or something else.”

Dumas adds that when the COVID-19 pandemic first began in the region, the call volume to the “Friendly Voice” was at a normal level, “Now that the dust is settling, and they’re realizing that they’re going to be at home for a long period of time, we’re starting to see the calls pick up.”

The phone line is open seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. Anyone in Ontario 55 and older can call 613-692-9992, or outside Ottawa toll-free 1-855-892-9992

The Rural Ottawa South Support services receives funding from a three-year grant from The Trillium Foundation of Ontario to run the phone line. Calls are confidential and answered by trained volunteers.