I was writing last weeks column about by 1958 Wolseley, with the BBC South News on TV in the background, when I caught a very moving story about 93-year-old Hampshire resident Bob Lowe, pictured, who had lost his wife of 60 years, Kath, who died three years ago from Alzheimer’s disease.
Bob’s tale, rather sadly, is a familiar one as over 50 per cent of UK residents over the age of 75 live alone, a figure set to rise with our increasingly aging population.
Bob had written a poem, An Ode to Kath, in which he tells of their wonderful life together and how, towards the end Kath asks if, when the time comes, their ashes could be mixed together so they can again snuggle-up forever and ever. Feeling very down and alone Bob had contacted Silver Line, the charity set up by Dame Esther Rantzen in 2011 to combat loneliness, and so moved by his poem Dame Esther decided to contact him and tell his story to the wider public, and hopefully further raise awareness of this growing problem.
I must confess, at the start of the news feature my eyes started to well-up, and by the end of his poem our dogs were literally licking my tears of the parquet floor!
In the course of my work as a chartered surveyor of personal property, I am regularly instructed by solicitors and executors to undertake house-contents valuations for probate purposes.
Quite often I am visiting the home of someone who has just lost their wife or husband, the person they have spent the best part of their life with, their best friend and soul mate.
Over the past 20 years in the job I have drank many a cup of tea whilst listening to the heartbreaking stories of such people and often leave the house feeling very sad and dreading the time when either me or my wife will face the same sad reality.
Dame Esther, who also founded ‘Childline,’ had experienced loneliness herself after losing her husband ‘Desi’ after 30 years of marriage, and once told her son, ‘Given the choice, I would swap 10 years of my life for just another 10 minutes with Des.’
Silver Line receives over 1,300 calls a day and over 650,000 since its launch two years ago.
Staggeringly, over 53 per cent of callers say they have literally no-one else to talk to. Silver Line can help point callers towards relevant services and local support groups and also provide a befriending service. The Internet too can provide much-need contact for those living alone and I am encouraged by the growing number of ‘Silver Surfers’ taking short course and embracing the Internet to join social networks and make new friends or find old acquaintances.
As is typical of our older generation, few will confess to feeling lonely, especially to their families, so spare a thought for anyone you know who may be alone, a few minutes of your time could be just the tonic they need.
The Silver Line Helpline is 0800 470 80 90 .