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Grieving Bob shines a light on loneliness; Widower Bob Lowe's poem to his late wife moved the nation and it also revealed how the elderly can feel isolated from society.

Byline: Sally McLean

WHEN grieving pensioner Bob Lowe read a poignant poem to his late wife Kath on BBC radio, it not only moved listeners to tears, it also highlighted the plight of chronic loneliness among our elderly.

Bob, 93, lost his wife three years ago after 65 years of happy marriage and wrote the ode to help him in his sudden loneliness.

He recited it live on 5 Live Breakfast, then the World War Two veteran became an internet sensation in a matter of hours and his words have resonated with people across the globe.

Bob is now a supporter and community champion of The Silver Line, a helpline for the elderly that Esther Rantzen founded.

He said: "I do cry of despair. I do talk to Kath. At night I say goodnight and in the morning I say good morning. It's a great comfort. But that's when loneliness kicks in and it hurts."

The topic of loneliness among pensioners is something charity Age Scotland are well aware of.

Chief executive Brian Sloan said that the issue is a big problem and becomes more so in the winter months.

He said: "It can be particularly bad for many, as the nights draw in.

"Through our helpline, The Silver Line Scotland, we hear from individuals who say they no longer feel valued by society.

"They have often lost their confidence and may feel trapped in their homes."

In fact, a recent survey by the charity suggests the number of people who feel they are alone is quite staggering.

Brian added: "Earlier this year we did a survey that suggests more than 80,000 people aged 65 and over in Scotland describe themselves as often or always feeling lonely.

"It also showed that about one in six (16 per cent) felt cut off from society while around a quarter would like to get out more."

And feeling lonely is not just a state of mind, it can also have serious physical effects on people.

Brian said: "Recent studies have shown it has double the impact of obesity and that feeling extreme loneliness can increase an older person's chances of premature death by 14 per cent."

Brian said it's important that the topic doesn't mean people feel guilty.

He said: "Everyone is busy and this isn't about blame but I think we all need to take the time to stop and think about those in our lives who may be feeling cut off.

"And don't assume that because someone you know is busy and seems to have a lot in their lives, they're not lonely. You can be lonely in a crowded room."

Age Scotland works in partnership with The Silver Line Scotland and gives advice on many issues that are affecting the elderly across the country. Because the calls here are being taken by advisers in Edinburgh, they can also link up lonely pensioners with activities and groups in their areas.

Brian said: "Silver Line Scotland means that, whatever the time or day, there's someone on the end of the line to speak to by calling one simple number.

"For one caller, her first call to the helpline was, as she said, the first proper conversation she'd had in seven weeks.

"I personally can't imagine going that long without a proper social interaction. But a call to Silver Line Scotland can also lead to much more. At Age Scotland we have more than 900 member groups around the country, all of which focus on providing a place to go and something to do for older people in our society.

"If anyone wants to know what's available in their area for them, or a family member, they can call us.

"We're all living longer but the key thing is that we want to live well. Nobody should feel they no longer have a meaningful role in the world and we all can and must do more." | Call The Silver Line Scotland on 0800 4 70 80 90 or Contact The Elderly on 0800 716 543.

ODE TO KATH BY BOB LOWE I AM alone, now I know it's true There was a time when we were two Those were the days when we would chat Doing little jobs of this and that We'd go to the shops and select our meals But now I'm alone I know how it feels To try and cook or have meals on wheels The rooms are empty there's not a sound Sometimes I'm lost and wander round To look for jobs that I can do To bring back the days when we were two When darkness falls and curtains drawn That's when I feel most forlorn But I must be honest and tell the truth I'm not quite alone and here's the proof Because beside me in her chair She quietly waits our time to share Kath said to me some time ago Darling when the time comes for us to go Let's mix our ashes and be together So we can snuggle up for ever and ever.

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DEVO VOV TED Bob with a treasured picture and, top right, Kath and Bob's big day
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Title Annotation:Features; Femail
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 17, 2014
Words:860
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