Nearly half the elderly people who called a hotline service said they wanted someone to talk to and keep them company on visits to the doctor. The hotline, Elder Ring, operated by the Senior Citizen Home Safety Association since July, expects more calls from the elderly as the weather worsens. Of some 450 cases requiring follow-up work in the past months, 103 wanted company during medical visits and 100 sought emotional counselling. 'With cooler weather and shorter days, it is easy for the elderly, especially those living alone, to be in low spirits since the conditions do not allow them to go outdoors as much as they would like,' said centre supervisor Wong Yuk-mui. 'Our volunteers will phone them more frequently to make sure they are all right and go to their homes to give them warm clothing if needed.' The Observatory forecast the temperature would fall as low as 14 degrees Celsius today, and remain cold until the weekend. Iman Fok Tin-man, community organiser at the Society for Community Organisation, said 180,000 of the SAR's 900,000 elderly lived alone. 'Physically, most are suffering chronic diseases. Mentally, most feel they are isolated. Their children and grandchildren are no longer living with them and are not visiting them very often.' Ms Fok said single elderly people seldom discussed their problems with neighbours. 'They are shy about doing so. They think these are matters that are best kept to themselves. That is why the elderly like to use the hotline,' she said. 'They feel it is more secure. At the same time, it can also help to ease their emotional stress for they have someone to talk to.' The hotline is staffed by trained social workers who counsel callers - usually aged over 60 - between noon and 8pm daily except Sunday. Some 1,100 calls have been made to the hotline so far - 657 were requests for information, and 382 by those seeking to share personal experiences.