Article written by Sam Carr and Chao Fang. Narrated by Marie T. Russell.
The pandemic brought the longstanding issue of loneliness and isolation in the lives of older people back into the public consciousness. When COVID-19 hit, we had only just completed the 80 in-depth interviews which formed the dataset for what we called The Loneliness Project – a large-scale, in-depth exploration of how older people experience loneliness and what it means for them.
Paula* had not been living in her retirement apartment for very long when I arrived for our interview. She welcomed me into a modern, comfortable home. We sat in the living room, taking in the impressive view from her balcony and our conversation unfolded.
Paula, 72, told me how four years ago she’d lost her husband. She had been his carer for over ten years, as he slowly declined from a degenerative condition.
She was his nurse, driver, carer, cook and “bottle-washer”. Paula said she got used to people always asking after her husband and forgetting about her. She told me: “You are almost invisible … you kind of go in the shadows as the carer.”
While she had obviously been finding life challenging, it was also abundantly clear that she loved her husband dearly and had struggled profoundly to cope with his death...