PHONE SUPPORT: Telecross volunteer Dave Jeffrey.
PHONE SUPPORT: Telecross volunteer Dave Jeffrey.

Showman reaches out to lonely seniors

DAVE Jeffrey is putting his people skills to good use each week, making phone calls to lonely seniors who benefit from his uplifting voice.

The former Captain Cook Cruises' commentator, who was forced to retire from work due to throat cancer when he was in his mid-60s, has found a new life through volunteering with the Red Cross as part of its Telecross team.

Each year the seven-days free service makes a daily call to isolated and lonely elderly Australians. In 2018 some 1.1 million calls were made by the Red Cross volunteers.

A friendly call from Dave, now 71, for a brief morning chat on how they are and whether they are safe can make all the difference to the lives of seniors who often say to Dave the Telecross calls are the only ones they get.

It's not only these clients that benefit from Dave's dedication during the last five years.

"I am lucky that I am fully recovered, but my former job required me to do a lot of talking and I had to give up the job early," he said. "It was a wonderful job and I was a bit depressed then someone suggested I do a bit of volunteering. It's turned out to be a godsend for me."

While volunteering as a welfare officer at his local RSL club in Sydney, Dave heard several of his clients mention how beneficial the Telecross calls were. "That's what got me into it as it seemed like a good idea," he said.

The Red Cross provided him with some training on how to speak to the clients and what to do and not do when talking with them. "You do acquire skills in cheering people up who are feeling down and lonely, and may be in a bit of pain," he added.

Dave works from notes about each client which helps him to know about their first name, situation, interests, pets and family. "You can always talk about that," he said.

Once a fortnight on a Sunday Dave travel across Sydney to join the Blacktown Teleross team which ranges in age from high-school students to seniors. For three hours from 7am to 10am, he turns his warming voice into a welcome call to anywhere between 30 and 40 people.

Dave has a quick chat for a couple of minutes with the client, making sure they are okay and giving them a human connection for those that don't have regular communication with the world outside their home. If the call isn't answered after three attempts, then "plan B" is put into action.

"One lady we rang up had been on the floor for about 12 hours," he said. "When she didn't answer, we notified the relevant contact and they went around and used their key, finding the old girl. That would have saved her life."

He also volunteers for the Telechat service. Every day of the week Dave calls one person at a specified time from his home phone. "I talk to them as long or as little as you or they like," Dave said. "Then every month I am given a new person to contact."

"We all do it because we love a bit of a chat. It's all pretty laid back.

"Most of the calls are really appreciated. Subconsciously, you get a good feeling from doing it."

"I think you get a bit of a feeling of worthlessness if you can't work," Dave added. "For me, it's personally satisfying. I have got more out of it than I have put into it."

For more information, go to redcross.org.au/get-help/community-services/telecross or phone 1300885698.


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