We’ve been getting behind the charity Dame Esther Rantzen set up to provide help, support and friendship to older people living on their own.

The Asda Foundation is helping to fund The Silver Line’s Letter Friend scheme where volunteers exchange letters with people like Heather, who struggled with loneliness after her husband Ken died. And our colleagues across the country are spreading the word about the great work The Silver Line does.

Heather, who’s 74, said: "People often don’t understand me when I say I am lonely. You feel that feeling lonely is your fault, that you’ve done something wrong. The shame stops you from reaching out. I contacted The Silver Line as I coped with my loneliness until I had had enough.

“You can’t sit and read an email or a text again and laugh about it. There is a big difference between writing for fun and writing out of necessity. I find I have missed the first greatly.

“There is nothing quite like getting a letter – you get a letter and chuckle over it, and I’ve suddenly discovered that writing letters is fun again.”

Sophie Andrews, Chief Executive of The Silver Line, said: "Asda colleagues carry out such great work in the community both through the Asda Foundation and as in-store Community Champions.

“We’re hoping they will help us to spread the word to older people about our Silver Letters friendship scheme, which is being funded by the Asda Foundation.”

The charity also offers a telephone helpline for lonely and isolated older people open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

The helpline has received more than one million calls. Over two thirds are made at nights and weekends, when no other helpline is available for older people who may be lonely, isolated or confused.

Dame Esther visited colleagues at Asda head office in Leeds to encourage them to spread the word about the charity she set up after experiencing loneliness when she lost her husband Desmond.

Julie Ward, senior manager at the Asda Foundation, said: “It was fantastic to welcome Dame Esther to Asda House to launch our partnership with The Silver Line and listen to her speak so passionately about helping the older members of society.”

The Silver Line Helpline can be reached on 0800 4 70 80 90.