How Age UK Uses Twilio Voice to Combat Loneliness

Hear Richard Holland of Age UK and Matt Haworth of Reason Digital talk about the system that powers the organization’s telephone befriending service.

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How Age UK Uses Twilio Voice to Combat Loneliness

For the 1.2 million older people who are chronically lonely in the UK, loneliness can be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It increases risk of depression, heart attack, and stroke, and is twice as deadly as obesity. Age UK, a non-profit organization a mission to combat loneliness among the older population in the UK, believes “no one should have no one.” Their “Call In Time” program, a friendly calling service that matches volunteers with older people for a weekly 30-minute phone call, has been going for more than a decade.

However, the problem is staggering: 200 thousand older people in the UK haven’t had a conversation with a friend or family member for at least a month. And the organization wanted to expand the program to call more people. The problem they faced was how to scale. For the previous decade, the Call In Service had been limited to volunteers within corporate organizations. Because of the multiple sensitivities involved in sharing private phone numbers, the process of matching volunteers with older people was very manual. To help them with this challenge, Age UK brought on Reason Digital, a social enterprise that helps nonprofits use technology to achieve their aims.

Richard Holland, Digital Solutions Architect of Age UK, and Matt Haworth, Co-founder of Reason Digital, joined us at SIGNAL London 2017 to share what they built. In order to expand the Call In Service to reach more people, they needed to open volunteer opportunities up to the public. To achieve this while maintaining privacy and safety, Reason Digital built a web application that allows volunteers to sign up and a backend system that matches those volunteers with older people based on shared interests and experiences, geography, and availability. Then they implemented Twilio APIs to connect the calls without actually exchanging private phone numbers.

Watch the video to hear all about what they built using Twilio Voice, SMS, and call recording features. Hear how Age UK scaled from 3,500 calls per month to well on their way to 10,000 calls per week. See the full stack involved and a step-by-step demo of how a call gets connected.

Warning: you may get teary-eyed when you hear the sweet stories of friendships formed and lives changed through this heart-warming service.

If you’re short on time, here are five key takeaways.

Key Takeaways

  • Age UK is using Twilio to build friendships between older people and volunteers over the phone. A mere half hour call a week can transform a person’s life.
  • By using Twilio to write API calls into their code, Age UK takes the matches their system makes between volunteers and older people and turns them into actual calls without sharing private phone numbers.
  • Age UK uses serverless architecture with AWS Lambda, S3, CloudFront and Node.JS, which allows them to scale to thousands of calls while saving the organization money.
  • They are experimenting with Twilio transcription features, as well as keyword detection and sentiment analysis, to avoid the scalability bottleneck of time-consuming call recording and monitoring for safety and security.
  • Organizations looking to use Twilio technology for good should check out the resources available through More than 1,000 nonprofits and social enterprises use Twilio’s platform to expand their impact and connect with the people they serve.