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Wed Apr 22, 2020, 12:12 AM

'Fighting Coronavirus Isolation Over The Phone With Friendly Contact' : DW, Germany

Germany, 'Fighting coronavirus isolation over the phone,' DW, April 21, 2020.

People living in isolation because of the coronavirus pandemic can become extremely lonely. That is why people like Ellen Ladnorg volunteer to talk to them for several hours a week on the telephone.

"Can you lend me your ear, Ellen?" That is the way most conversations between Ellen Ladnorg and Susanna Henkel begin. Although both women live in Berlin, the majority of those conversations take place on the telephone. Susanna Henkel has lung disease and she has also been caring for her husband, Klaus, since he had a stroke some nine years ago. Henkel, who leaves her apartment only to buy groceries, tells DW also by telephone that Ladnorg is "a ray of light in the darkness." Now that the coronavirus is changing life so dramatically, they talk with one another almost every evening and have a standing date around 6 p.m. Ladnorg says she wants to make sure her friend is doing all right.

The two women got into contact five years ago with the help of the Malteser Hilfedienst, a Catholic aid organization. Ellen Ladnorg had already been working with the group for years. She and fellow volunteers had established a project called "Time to Talk" (Redezeit), a program designed to let volunteers make regular calls with people to offer them comfort and to ease their loneliness where needed.

One day, 69-year-old Susanna Henkel read about the program in the newspaper and called to sign up. Since then, she and Ladnorg have been regularly phoning two or three times a week. "Sometimes, depending on how difficult things are, we talk for up to an hour. But on other days we just chat for a couple of minutes we just say hi and let one another know how we are doing," as Ladnorg tells DW.

A job with responsibilities: Ladnorg, who is 73, has a steady voice and an open gaze. She is fully aware of the responsibility that she has taken on. "We often have volunteers who start off strong, but then we never hear from them again. That is really awful for the elderly people we help. They think they must have done something wrong, and they begin to feel insecure," says Ellen Ladnorg. She says volunteers "have to approach this from the heart. They have to listen to what people are telling them."

Susanna Henkel's voice becomes shaky at times as she tells DW about the difficulties she has in life. She says her weekly conversations with Ladnorg give her a sense of continuity, as well as providing a window to the outside world...

More, https://www.dw.com/en/fighting-coronavirus-isolation-over-the-phone/a-53201966

- Also: Stories From Quarantine,' 'I'm Actually Doing Incredibly Well, Says 81-Year Old,' DW

How is an 81-year-old faring while living in coronavirus isolation? Maria Albel, a Swede living in Berlin, reports about the importance of crosswords, "crisis cuisine," and the kindness of neighbors...

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