The Challenges of Ageing and Living Alone
Many of my friends know of my concerns for senior solo women who face housing challenges. There is a massive shortage of affordable houses in Australia. But I am angry and concerned about othere issues associated with the senior solo women. This cohort is often described as women over 50 years of age. There are many in the 70’s, 80’s and their 90’s living alone in their homes or government and community housing.
The older ladies are often more challenged. For some, they have few or no family as often women outlive their loved ones. Some are not well educated and feel excluded from the modern world – even a mobile phone can be challenging, and many don’t communicate via their computer or tablet.
Two Women Die
Two incidents have occurred in the past few months that really make me angry. In one government housing complex within the Brisbane city area, two women have died in circumstances that should not have happened.
One was a lady who was a friendly loner who often walked her small dog around the complex, but it took some time before someone realised that she had not been seen for some time. Eventually, the police and other emergency services appeared, and the bodies of the woman and her dog were found. My understanding is that her body had laid for some three months in her unit before she was found!
This complex does not have an onsite manager, and there is no one to check up on the residents. When I think about this I get very distressed. No one bothered about this senior solo woman for three months? Her rent was probably an automatic deduction from her fortnightly pension, and there was nothing that set off any concern for her.
How do we Make a Change?
In the last couple of weeks, another incident occurred. The lady concerned lived alone in her unit, and she had been living there for over 17 years. One of the neighbours queried why they hadn’t seen her for a few days. Emergency services were called and after they broke in, they found her in a critical condition. She was taken by ambulance to a hospital, but before they reached the hospital she died. Her friends phoned all the local hospitals, but as she had not been admitted, no one knew about her. Eventually, they discovered what happened.
There are so many concerns for me. Surely in this day and age, with all our modern technology there are ways to regularly check up on people who are ageing and live alone. Did the women know about them? Did they not understand how to use them? Why aren’t the tenants supported in a scheme to check regularly on their neighbours? It seems a simple enough concept, but these public houses just provide housing and no support services appear to exist for them.
Difficulties Accessing the Sick or Dead
As there is no onsite manager, the emergency services had trouble getting into the second lady’s house – there is no system other than making a call to the department, but after hours, further complications occur. The police and ambo’s can’t break in, they have to call the Fire Brigade.
Luckily one of the neighbours did have some minimal knowledge about her health issues, and no-one knew her next of kin. In all quite a traumatic experience for all concerned, which doesn’t need to be. It appears the housing department has no system to support these residents, so it is likely to happen again and again.
One of the not-for-profit housing organisations has a program called “The Forgotten Women“. Currently, they are considering providing housing. Unless the housing complexes have either a community that supports all residents or a person in charge, these terrible occurrences will continue.
It is just over one year since I visited the New Ground co-housing project for senior solo women, and where I learned how it all can be done in an affordable manner.
We (through SoSeW) are working to make changes. Our focus is to provide safe, secure, affordable forever housing for senior solo women. If anyone is interested in working with our small team do make contact with me.
Do you have any ideas to help this cohort? Please contact me.