According to a news report out of Ft. Myers, FL, a man purchased a foreclosed home only to find a dead, elderly woman in the bedroom. According to neighbors, she hadn’t been seen in years. The last mail in the home was dated 2011. The fact that a woman died, completely unnoticed by anyone for over three years was particularly disturbing to me. My grandmother died alone, on Thanksgiving Day 1993. If her neighbor, an exotic dancer, hadn’t attempted to deliver a meal, she may not have been missed for a very, long time. I, myself, had only seen her two or three times in ten years.
My grandmother was a very intelligent and compassionate woman. I can still hear her telling me about her wonderfully talented neighbor who danced professionally, and on occasion, made $1,000 per night. Whether she was naive, or not, she was the most non-judgmental person I’ve ever known. Establishing a relationship with her neighbor, benefitted each of them, I’m certain.
I started thinking about my elderly friends. If this were to happen to them, would they be missed by me? If I don’t see frequent posts on Facebook or receive emails, it is quite possible I wouldn’t think to call them unless I needed something or it was a special occasion. Then, I started to wonder about my neighbors. Now that I live in the city, I see my neighbors routinely, coming and going, in addition to exchanging emails on a regular basis. Most likely, I would miss them, or at the very least, notice when they didn’t make their quarterly payment for homeowner’s association dues. However, when I lived in the country, I had neighbors that I might have only seen two or three times in 10 years, and some I had never met.
I believe in the importance of social interaction. It has been well-documented in many studies that elderly who remain engaged in the community, live longer, happier and healthier lives. It is also more likely that they would be missed in unexplained absences. As we age, it is important to be seen and heard. Not only will it keep us active but in ensures that we will not end up alone in our last days.
There are so many activities from which to choose, depending on your limitations. Join a discussion group, Senior center, exercise class, sit on your porch every morning and wave at the passers by; anything that will draw attention to your presence, and therefore, absence. What if this woman had simply fallen and couldn’t stand on her own? That would be even more tragic than the event as it unfolded.
If you live alone, and haven’t established your presence in your community, do it now, regardless of your age. It just may save your life.