Blame it on technology, globalization, busy lives, or whatever you choose, but gone are the days when neighbors knew their neighbors. Our collective sense of community has vanished in many parts of the world. This is most recently evidenced in the death of a 72-year-old woman in South Carolina. She lived in a small town; that is until she died alone in her home. Read the news article here.
While it may not be that stunning to hear a 72-year-old woman died of natural causes, what is stunning is that no one noticed . . . for 18 months! During that time her house was sold for back taxes and her dog died inside from thirst. Only after her decomposing body was found did people realize they hadnâ€™t seen her in a while. â€œWe didnâ€™t know this lady existed,â€ the townâ€™s sheriff said. â€œItâ€™s a sad tragedy this lady had absolutely nobody who cared enough to check on her â€“ very sad.â€
The woman lived the life of a hermit and didnâ€™t seek contact with others, but I believe the local floristâ€™s comment sums it up best when she said, â€œIn this day, weâ€™re supposed to be out of everybodyâ€™s business, but I think sometimes that goes too far.â€
My only hope is that this case prods people to check up on older neighbors, to make sure they have a safety net in place. We should not assume that someone else is doing it. If we as a society donâ€™t watch out for our most vulnerable populations, I fear what will happen when more older adults make up the bulk of our population. Not everyone can be served, or wants to be served, by senior housing complexes, assisted living centers and nursing homes. There is a national push to keep seniors in their homes for as long as possible, but that canâ€™t be safely done without the help of family, friends, and neighbors. We canâ€™t expect government and non-profits to do all the work. There is a role for each of us to play, itâ€™s a collective responsibility.