My wife, Betty, died in 2012. We had enjoyed so much together. We went dancing once or twice a week. We both loved that. We had lovely holidays. Towards the end, Betty had dementia. She had carers to get her out of bed and then she would sit in her chair and not speak all day. If something came on the television, maybe a place we had visited on holiday, there would be no response from her.
It was a big shock when Betty died. When I got over that, I knew I needed to find company. That is why I am so worked up about this issue. Other people in my situation have to find out about what help is out there, and many men won’t do that.
We're being overlooked
Finding out what is available to help someone in my situation – I’m in my 90's and disabled – sometimes feels impossible. People at the council will say, “The information is on the internet”. When will they learn that the majority of elderly people are not on the internet? Then they say, “If you look you can find information in brochures.” What if you are housebound? How, then, can you search around for brochures? What if you feel lonely and unable to reach out for help? Who we are, and what our needs are, are being overlooked.
We isolate ourselves
I’ve noticed that men seem to isolate themselves much more than women and don’t like to reach out for help. I go to a club on a Monday and there are three men there, with 16 women. Like many charities, the organisers say they don’t get much of a response from men. For me it is a wonderful experience. Over the weekend I often don’t see or speak to anyone, so I have a lovely time at the lunch, talking to different people.
The other men who go enjoy it as much as I do. One is 90. The other is my age and he likes the ladies, he’s always handing out sweets to them. That might be why he goes along. That’s not the reason I go – I go for the company.
Someone needs to do a survey about why it is that men do not accept the help that’s available and many don’t go out looking for help. All the organisations I speak to say the same. I think men need to be more socialised. They don’t appear to look for help or friendship. Maybe they are sitting at home and hoping the help will come to them but this isn’t what tends to happen.
Local councils need to reach out
Local councils and social services may not have the personal experience of what it’s like to be elderly and lonely but they must know the problem exists. They should have knowledge of all the people in their area who are in this situation and they should keep in touch with them.
They should be approaching them with ways they can be helped, places they can go to for company and support, and helplines that can give them the information they need – like the one at Independent Age. This information is so vital.
It’s not right that we have to rely on charitable organisations for the help that’s needed, and this is especially not right for the men who don’t go out and make the most of the help that is available.