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Sue Perkins undertakes 30-hour isolation experience to raise awareness of loneliness
amongst older people

Cadbury, Age UK and Sky Media launch next phase of Donate Your Words campaign

Cadbury, Age UK and Sky Media have unveiled the next stage of the Donate Your Words campaign, which launched last month. This latest phase of activity is fronted by Sue Perkins and will continue to raise awareness of the heart-breaking issue of loneliness amongst older people and encourage the nation to get involved by donating their words.

Cadbury believes that there is goodness in all of us – it says, “There is a glass and a half in everyone.” When research discovered that 225,000 older people across the UK often go an entire week without speaking to anyone, Cadbury wanted to help. That’s why it’s donated the words from Cadbury Dairy Milk bars to help, with 30p from each limited-edition bar sold going to Age UK. The campaign is encouraging everyone across the nation to help by donating their words too, by chatting to, calling or visiting an older person. Showing that there really is a glass and a half in everyone.

In order to truly understand the experience of these solitary older people, Sue committed to spend 30 hours in complete isolation, without speaking a word to anyone. During this time, she was entirely cut off from the outside world – no internet, phone and minimal reading material. Throughout her time in the house she did not go outside or talk to anyone.  Although Sue only had a glimpse into the reality of long-term loneliness, the fit and healthy TV personality felt saddened and shocked after just a short period of time in isolation.

Sue’s experience of undergoing the 30 hours of isolation was recorded and will be shown in two spot TV adverts, including one 100-second long form ad and a shorter 60 second TVC.

Although Sue found this challenge difficult, the TV star understands this experience was not comparable to how an older person experiencing chronic loneliness might feel after days, weeks or even months without proper human contact. Sue’s 30-hour isolation ended with a knock on the door by 89-year-old Theresa who told Sue what she had just experienced was in fact her everyday life, before she joined her local Age UK befriending service. This phase of the campaign aims to give the public, especially the younger, tech-savvy generation, a window into this serious issue so more people can understand how much of a problem loneliness and isolation is, especially during later life.

Discussing why she became involved in the campaign, Sue Perkins, said,

“Seven years ago, I was in hospital following a nasty fall. Opposite me in the ward was an 85-year-old woman, Annie, who had been mugged in her home and found several days later cowering under a table. 

“We got chatting over the course of the next few days and spent time getting to know one another. Slowly, her bruises faded. The day before she was discharged, I noticed her holding her neck. 

“I asked her if she was in pain, and she said her back felt stiff – so I asked her if she wanted a massage. Sure enough, she did. I pottered over and started rubbing her shoulders. I did that for about half an hour until her muscles felt a little less tense. We chatted the whole time. Then at the end, once my hands were too sore to continue, she turned around, said thanks, and told me, without a shred of self-pity that that was the first time she had been touched in 15 years. 

“In 15 years.

“That story has stayed with me. The touch of another human; in friendship, in love, even in passing -is what keeps us connected and grounded. To have spent a decade and a half without that seemed unimaginably painful.

“I shall think of Annie when I take part in this campaign, and all those who go about their lives without company, or meaningful interaction with others. Loneliness is my greatest fear. Let’s help those for whom it is a reality.”

Claudia Miceli Senior Brand Manager at Cadbury, added,

“This is a really powerful phase in our campaign to help tackle loneliness together with Age UK. Seeing the effects of just 30 hours of isolation on Sue really strikes a chord with us, and we’re hoping that we can work together to combat the issue of loneliness.”

Laurie Boult, Fundraising Director at Age UK, said,

This is such a powerful campaign and we hope this next phase will really help people understand just how serious a problem loneliness is.

“Sue’s brief yet challenging experience will do a lot to provide much-needed insight into how so many older people feel every day. It’s great Sue got to meet Theresa so she was able to fully understand some of the challenges which thousands of older people face when it comes to getting out and about and speaking to people.

“We hope it will really help to raise widespread awareness of the issue of loneliness and encourage everybody to do their bit to help tackle it.”

Jason Hughes, Head of Creative Solutions at Sky Media, commented,

“We’re incredibly proud to have worked on this campaign together with Cadbury and Age UK, and hope to help bring the deserved attention to this endemic issue in our society. Loneliness can often be forgotten, but we’re pleased that through this TV campaign we can encourage Brits around the country to take a moment and think how they can help older people in later life.”

Flora Kessler, Strategy Partner, Carat UK, said,

“We’re excited to have worked with Sky, Cadbury and Age UK on bringing this campaign to life. We wanted to find someone who could connect with the nation and bring the issue home. By volunteering to experience just a small slice of what many older people go through every week, Sue will help drive national conversation and real action around this crisis.”

Together with VCCP, Carat and The Story Lab, the isolation experience builds on Age UK and Cadbury’s partnership in which Cadbury ‘donated the words’ from its Dairy Milk bars to fund Age UK’s initiatives. The campaign

The two-week TV campaign launches on the 7th October and lasts until the 20th October.

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