Dame Esther Rantzen pays tribute to man who inspired helpline for older people

The Silver Line, a service which helps older people in the UK battling loneliness, was inspired by Bob Lowe’s story of loneliness.
The Silver Line, a service which helps older people in the UK battling loneliness, was inspired by Bob Lowe’s story of loneliness.

Dame Esther Rantzen has paid tribute to the man whose story of loneliness inspired her to launch a lifeline for older people.

After writing about loneliness, Dame Esther received an “inspirational” letter from widower Bob Lowe which motivated her to found The Silver Line, a service which helps older people in the UK battling loneliness.

Lowe died aged 99 in the early hours on Monday.

Dame Esther told the PA news agency: “I wrote about feelings of loneliness back in 2011 and the first personal letter I got was from Bob, who explained that his wife Kath had died two years previously from Alzheimer’s.

“He said: ‘Sixty-five years of marriage and more importantly 72 years since we first kissed… she waited throughout the war and I for her. Loneliness, tell me about it.’

“I carried that letter with me as an inspiration for setting up The Silver Line.”

In his letter, Lowe had included a poem he had written to his late wife. He later appeared on This Morning to perform the poem, Ode To Kath, which brought presenters Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield close to tears.

Similarly, after reciting the poem on Nicky Campbell’s Radio 5 live programme, it went “viral” bringing a crew from Australia to his door, Dame Esther said.

After appearing in a film for Sport Relief, Lowe, who was The Silver Line’s first ambassador, has raised “millions for charity” through his “bravery and eloquence,” Dame Esther told the PA news agency.

In a tribute, the former That’s Life! presenter and producer said: “He was from an engineering background, he was not a literary man or a famous man but just because of his brilliant way of expressing what so many people feel if they lose someone they love as they grow older.

“He went everywhere telling people not to keep loneliness to themselves, not to feel shy or ashamed to admit it because reaching out to other people helps you and helps them.”

Just days before he passed, Dame Esther and Lowe were planning to raise awareness of loneliness to mark his upcoming 100th birthday.

Dame Esther told the PA news agency: “Bob and I had all sorts of plans for him to talk about being 100 and the need to reach out to older people at Christmas.

“He would have been 100 on December 21, I saw him this week. He told me he was so looking forward to being 100 and disappointed that he knew that he might not make it. I said to him according to the Chinese calculation, you are 100.”

Father-of-three Lowe was made Citizen of the Year in New Milton in 2014 and he received a Points of Light Award from then-prime minister Theresa May for his charitable efforts, according to Dame Esther.

His daughter Martine Goodrich told the PA news agency: “We were enormously proud of Dad and how he has coped since mums death, and with all of his voluntary work.

“When Mum died he said to us: ‘Now you aren’t to worry about me, I have got things I am going to do.’ We of course had no idea where that would lead.

“He has left behind a huge legacy and a loving extended family which has spread around the world. Three children, six grandchildren, six great grandchildren, and a plethora of nephews and nieces.”