A charity which offers a lifeline of friendship to older people has launched its 100th group in Scotland.

First Glasgow group 1971

Contact the Elderly, which hosts free monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for those aged 75 and over and who live alone, has groups from the Borders to the Highlands. The latest addition launched in Edinburgh, the 14th group in the city.


The first Contact the Elderly tea party took place in 1971 at Greenbank House and Gardens in Clarkston with just a handful of guests and volunteers. Today, there are now more than 1100 volunteers supporting more than 900 older people enjoy the far-reaching benefits of tea, cake and, most importantly, company.

Valerie Crookston, Scotland Executive Officer at Contact the Elderly, said:

“It is a fantastic testament to our invaluable volunteers, fantastic guests and great team here in Scotland that we have reached this landmark number of groups. The amount of lives our tea parties have helped make better over the years will be extraordinary and of this I am incredibly proud.

“We operate on a very simple premise but the results are immeasurable. Chronic loneliness among our older population is a depressing fact of life but one which can be effectively remedied. The feedback from the older people we receive each and every week shows us just how much the friendships and outings with Contact the Elderly groups mean.”

Betty of Brechin has been attending Contact the Elderly tea parties for more than 15 years. She said:

“I don’t get out very much now so the Contact the Elderly tea parties are marvellous. I tell everyone I meet about them as I have made great friends over the years. We always have a great afternoon and I always really look forward to when we all get together again.”

John Clutterbuck started volunteering with the charity in its first year in Scotland. He remains a group coordinator in Glasgow to this day. He said:

“I have always enjoyed my time volunteering with Contact the Elderly. Volunteers often get as much out of our afternoons together as the guests. I have met a lot of friends and seen the benefits the tea parties have had on the lives of very many people.”

Once a month, a volunteer driver collects one or two older people and takes them to an afternoon tea party in a volunteer host’s home. The parties tend to last two hours. Hosts welcome groups into their homes once or twice a year.

The newest group held its first tea party in the home of 32-year-old Klaire McIntyre in Leith, Edinburgh. She said:

“I am delighted to have hosted the first tea party for Contact the Elderly’s 100th group in Scotland. We all had a fantastic time and I’m looking forward to many more parties in the years to come. It’s a fantastic charity and I can already see the difference it can make to the lives of older people.”

The charity currently has a waiting list of more than 100 older people throughout Scotland keen to no longer spend afternoons alone in the house. It is also committed to reaching more older people who are disengaged from society who would benefit from getting to know people in their local community. To do this, it needs people to donate a small amount of time to drive and accompany older people to parties, coordinate groups and to host parties.

Valerie added:

“This is a major achievement and we are now supporting more older people than ever before to live more fulfilled and enjoyable lives but this is not a reason to be complacent. We already know of at least 100 people in Scotland who want to join our parties and we know there will be many hundreds more we haven’t been able to reach out to. To continue our work we need more people in towns and cities throughout the country to commit to offering an invaluable lifeline of friendship to older people in their local communities by pledging just one afternoon a month, or even one afternoon a year, to Contact the Elderly.”

Contact the Elderly hopes to launch a further 10 parties in Scotland this year. For more information on volunteering, or becoming a guest, please contact Caroline McGinlay on caroline.mcginlay@contact-the-elderly.org.uk or 0141 812 1555.