What lonely old women teach us

What lonely old women teach us

It was a foggy day in Lombardy, northern Italy, with strong winds. In the beautiful town of Prestino, a Swiss resident sitting on the shores of Lake Como called the police, worried that some old trees at her neighbor Ms. Beretta’s property were in danger of being uprooted. Polizia soon arrived, but they could not prepare from afar for the sight that had greeted them.

Marinella Beretta, 70, a resident of the house, was sitting at her kitchen table. It had been two years since he was dead; The dryness and temperature of the surroundings had mummified her body where she was sitting.

Marinella’s absence was not missed as she had never been actively involved in the community. Her neighbors simply assumed she had relocated when the pandemic hit northern Italy in 2020.

An Italian journalist called Marinella a “loneliness personality”. “Now people die alone,” he wrote. “And we live alone, which is almost worse.”

‘Loneliness’ is the wrong word here; Some people feel lonely even in a crowd. Studies have shown that the killer is isolation, the social equivalent of being stranded on a desert island. The pandemic dramatically increased social isolation, apparently more among women than men.

Confirmed by a study released six days ago by the Women’s Health Initiative that included more than 27,400 women aged 71 to 104 and showed loneliness increased among women during the pandemic, and more so than men. Is.

There is a unique mix of sadness and conservatism among women living alone in their declining years. Marinella was a reminder of what the end can look like for an elderly man living in social isolation.

You don’t need to go to Italy to find single women in old age. I know three people in India, all older than Marinella, who were living alone and socially isolated before and through the pandemic. I was one of the few people who stayed in touch with him.

Jaya was 84 years old and lived alone in Chennai, even as the comforting memories of her life were erased by dementia. She didn’t know who she was, who her children were, and what to do if she slipped and fell in the shower.

An old family retainer attended to his needs, reporting weekly to his son in England for updates and directions. After nearly a decade of cloudy weather, Jaya quietly left her body a few months back. I remember the younger version of her, a kind, kind woman with evil eyes and a reputation as a tough, classy director.

One of the few friends who kept in touch with Jaya was her friend Anu, who lived alone elsewhere in Chennai. From an old-fashioned family in Jamshedpur, Anu had lived a sophisticated, artistic life as a model, actress and socialite. Both women were popular, socially vibrant page three personalities in their time.

Then, one after the other, Anu lost her superpowers. In old age, she hunts the now tome house, painstakingly navigating its rooms with a walker and issuing instructions for the day’s lunch to an old cook.

Anu has already broken wrists, hip bones, ankles and shoulder blades, and although all have recovered, these days she is mostly in bed re-reading classics. She lives with a few visitors in a sepia house with her memories and family antiques. When someone is about to call, however, Anu takes too many notes, for fear that her dim memory will retain anything that was said.

Daphne’s story may be the saddest. Widow like Jaya and Anu, she led a highly public life in Bengaluru, known for audacious projects that provided better health to children and the elderly.

She was a charming, indomitable woman of relentless optimism and generosity. Her work was admired and replicated globally, although she remained nationally unknown. He was adored by his wide circle of friends; Her house was always full of visitors and stories of people and places.

As the twin demons of debility and dementia descended upon him, Daphne’s children, all far away, decided to keep her in isolation to save herself from him. Her friends were requested to stop visiting her, and her moments and movements were carefully monitored day and night by nurses and house help. The woman who had always been single was also now isolated.

Daphne passed away a few months ago. Due to the pandemic, only a few people attended the funeral. She died as if she had never lived, in isolation.

Lest we blame it all on one virus, I would like to add that for the time being we are turning into a society that forgets its elders when they need our time and care. A journalist writing about Marinella Berreto wrote this blunt indictment: “The real sadness is not that others have not noticed her death. It’s because they didn’t even know he was alive.”

Note: Name, location and some life details have been changed to respect personal privacy.

Looked here and there. CY Gopinath, in Bangkok, casts unparalleled light and shadow on Mumbai, the city he grew up in. You can contact him at cygopi@gmail.com
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The views expressed in this column are those of the individual and do not represent the views of the paper.



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