Trevor Lyttleton vows to “pass on the torch” to help fight lonelinessWednesday 22 July 2015
Trevor Lyttleton, Chairman of Contact the Elderly, said that he wants to “pass on the torch” to the next generation after announcing his retirement during the acceptance speech for his honorary degree from Liverpool Hope University.
Mr Lyttleton said it was fitting for him to make his announcement at the ceremony because of the shared values of Liverpool Hope and Contact the Elderly. He recounted advice from the Cambridge polymath Dr. Albert Schweitzer, who said it was important to, “start early to instil in your students awareness that they are on this earth to help and serve others. That is as important to pass on to them as knowledge.”
Contact the Elderly started in Marylebone in 1965 with 12 volunteers and 12 elderly guests, and was founded by Mr Lyttleton when he was in his 20s. It now has 7,500 volunteers and staff and 560 groups nationwide. In the 50 years it has been in existence, it has made 1 million friendship links between elderly people and the younger generations. Mr Lyttleton said that he was accepting his Doctor of Humane Letters (honoris causa) from Liverpool Hope "on behalf of every volunteer and staff member at Contact the Elderly."
Mr Lyttleton praised Liverpool Hope University’s relationship with the charity. Liverpool Hope was the first university to partner with Contact the Elderly, with students and staff running their own monthly tea parties at the Liverpool Hope Park campus.
Before making his announcement at the ceremony at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, Mr Lyttleton told the audience of the ambitious plans that will take Contact the Elderly forward, including an aim to double service delivery, to further links with the medical profession (which have begun with a partnership with Liverpool GP Dr Velayudham, who has started tea parties in his Storrsdale GP practice), and to increase the number of universities that host Contact the Elderly tea parties. Mr Lyttleton said that the charity will remain committed to helping reduce the “national shame” of allowing 1 million older people in the UK to experience loneliness.
He also recounted his inspiration for starting Contact the Elderly in his late 20s – his own grandmother, who he said taught him that older people were more fun to be around than most young people realise, and his lasting childhood memory of an elderly lady who used to look out of her window every day. Mr Lyttleton asked the audience to "please remember the lonely old lady looking down from the window waiting for someone to take notice and care – and answer her unspoken cry."
Mr Lyttleton said that Contact the Elderly’s mission has not changed over the 50 years since its inception. He said that when it started the aim was to “move away from the holier than thou attitude” often attached to charity work, by showing that it is just as enjoyable for the volunteers as it is for the elderly people involved, quoting Mark Twain: “The best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer somebody else up.”
Professor Gerald Pillay, Vice Chancellor and Rector of Liverpool Hope University said: “We are proud to have been the first university to partner with Contact the Elderly, which was founded by Trevor Lyttleton as a young university graduate. The Charity has done outstanding work over fifty years in helping millions of isolated elderly people re-connect with their communities. Trevor over the years has helped to develop a younger generation of volunteers with a profound respect for and an understanding of the challenges older people face, especially social isolation and loneliness. Trevor was ahead of all of us in acknowledging the need for a sustainable programme of care for elderly people in the UK.”