LANCASHIRE & LONELINESS: You don't think you're going to get old...

On the final day of the Evening Post's series examining the hidden epidemic of loneliness, Kay Taylor speaks to widow Joyce Powell about the challenges of living alone

Thursday, 14th April 2016, 1:04 pm
Updated Thursday, 14th April 2016, 2:07 pm
Joyce Powell at home in Astley Village, Chorley

Read more from our Lancashire & Loneliness series here:

Widow Joyce Powell at her bungalow in Chorley

‘You never think you’re going to get old – when you’re young and have your health and so much energy, you just can’t imagine it’.

Joyce Powell has had a busy life, raising three children and working as a primary school teacher.

Now, she lives alone in Astley Village, Chorley, and is speaking out about the importance of people supporting and remembering the elderly in their own communities.

Joyce, a grandmother of six, was admitted to hospital in September with pneumonia and chickenpox.

Widow Joyce Powell at her bungalow in Chorley

When she returned home, she contacted Age UK Lancashire to seek help through its hospital aftercare initiative.

“I was weak and tired more than anything,” she explained. “And I fell whilst cleaning my kitchen floor, so I called the charity for help.

“I’d heard about them through word of mouth, but I really think this service is something the hospital should make people more aware of when they’re discharged.

“Someone came round for an hour a day for five days, and then once a week for the following five weeks.

“They did bits of cleaning and shopping, and it just gives you time to get back on your feet.

“It was a great service and it was really helpful for me to know that a friendly face was coming to see me regularly.

“They gave me leaflets about other services provided by the charity, such as ready meals and social events.

“They even offer to go along to a social group with you for the first time to build your confidence, and I’m thinking about going to a weekly lunch at the Chorley Lifestyle Centre.”

The Lifestyle Centre, in Gillibrand Street, is run by Age UK Lancashire and the Brothers of Charity with support from Chorley Council, hosting sessions such as computer classes, art workshops, and games mornings.

Similarly, the Chorley Outreach Programme provides support in rural areas of Chorley, Coppull and Clayton Brook, with the aim of setting up services and activities to meet communities’ needs such as luncheon clubs, indoor bowling and exercise classes.

The charity’s aim is to help people retain their independence, stay active in their community, and prevent loneliness.

Joyce said: “In a way I am lonely, but I just get on with it.

“I read a lot of books – I particularly like thrillers – and I watch TV like the soaps, Casualty and The Voice.

“I also enjoy cooking and I used to cook big family meals on a regular basis, but most of my family lives far away, so we haven’t done anything like that in a long time.

“I could go out more – I go out once a month with a group of about eight people for lunch, and they all go out together every week, walking and on days out.

“They always try to encourage me to join them, but I’d prefer for people to come round to see me.”

She added: “I get fed up with myself sometimes and think I should make the effort to go out more.

“I spend most weekends in my dressing gown, that’s becoming a bit of a habit, but the weather doesn’t help.

“I’m not very confident driving at night or on the motorways, so I just think, why should I bother to go out if I don’t have to?”

A popular service provided by Age UK Lancashire is the befriending scheme, which sees volunteers visit elderly people in their homes once a week to keep them company.

Joyce remembers her own mother making use of a similar initiative.

“They’re good listeners and my mum really liked that,” she said. “It’s someone new to talk to about your life and family.

“You never think you’re going to get to that stage yourself, though. You never think you’re going to get old.”

Joyce has two sisters in Rochdale, a son in Rochdale and a son down south, as well as a daughter in Astley Village.

The 78-year-old said: “My daughter lives nearby but she’s doing her own thing so can’t see me every day.

“She’s a mum and she works full time, but I go round two afternoons a week to see her and my grandchildren, and I really look forward to that.

“That keeps me going.”

Joyce also speaks with one of her sisters on the phone every evening.

“A lot of older people don’t have that kind of daily contact,” she said. “If I don’t answer, she’ll try again later or call my daughter to check on me.

“It’s good to have that reassurance that there’s someone looking out for you like that.

“I think it’s important for people to have that, because otherwise they could go for days without speaking to anyone, or they could fall and nobody would know, which is a scary thought.”

She added: “My sisters used to come to visit me regularly, but they have to look after their husbands now so they don’t come as much.

“I even had quite a bit of company when my husband, Ronald, died nearly 20 years ago.

“I was in my early sixties and was very active, and went on lots of holidays.

“Six months after he died, my mum became a double amputee so I moved her in with me.

“I’ve never really been by myself, and I used to have a much busier life.

“I’ve slowed down such a lot, but I try to keep busy with jobs around the house.”

Read more from our Lancashire & Loneliness series here: