Call to monitor elderly living alone

19:24, Jun 30 2013
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Don't just walk on by

A Blenheim real estate agent has urged people to look out for their elderly neighbours this winter after she called police to the house of an 84-year-old man with "four days of newspapers" in his letter box.

Anne Goodyer, of First National Real Estate, said the property had no signs of life, with all the curtains pulled, and she feared the man might be dead.

Ms Goodyer was at the house next door, which had just come on the market, to let builders in last Tuesday, she said.

Ms Goodyer had been to the property about a dozen times and knew an elderly man lived alone next door.

"I thought ‘why would he not collect his mail or get his newspapers?' "

Ms Goodyer rang the police who came and called at the door.


The man was lying in bed with a single woollen blanket about 3pm, she said.

"The house was freezing cold, with minimal supplies, and he had the oven door [in the kitchen] off its hinges to warm the house," Ms Goodyer said. "If that was my mum or dad, living like that, I would be horrified."

She was concerned other elderly people were living by themselves in Marlborough with no regular visitors.

"We are not as personable as we were years ago, we have lost contact with our neighbours," she said. "Everybody needs to check on elderly people at this time of year, especially with the cold snap we've had, because the cold gets them. Don't be scared to check it out or ring the police."

Blenheim woman Myra Giese last week condemned a coroner's finding into her partner's death in 2010, after he lay dead in a Wellington retirement village for a fortnight.

The coroner found the operator was not to blame after it was a fellow resident that raised the alarm.

The resident noted that she had not heard him playing his flute, he had not opened his windows, and his lights were permanently on.

Ms Giese, a Grey Power Marlborough member, said the real estate agent was right to call the police.

"It's great that the girl got nosy," she said.

It was important for everyone, not just the elderly, to be part of a social network so people noticed when they were not around, Ms Giese said.

"It's important to get to know your neighbours, that goes for young and old," she said. "The problem for older people is that they have medical concerns."

Ms Giese used to have a group of four friends who would ring each other every day, she said.

"If you can think of ways to look after yourself," she said. "It's a problem when you don't know you need to be looked after, though. Some people don't remember if they spoke to somebody today or yesterday."

Age Concern Marlborough older persons support worker Wendy Lefebre said an elderly man had been referred to Age Concern yesterday but could not comment on individual cases.

Ms Lefebre reinforced the message for people to look after their elderly neighbours, especially during winter. "If living next door to an older person and you notice the blinds haven't been pulled, they haven't been seen around the property, or there are no signs of life for a day or two, the first thing to do is knock on the door."

Age Concern also dealt with quite a few cases of self-neglect in Marlborough, and where the older person just wanted to be left alone, Ms Lefebre said.

"We have come across situations where the person absolutely refuses help from everybody. Maybe they are that type of person - a loner. Some people are happy in their own ways. What we think is not right is perfectly fine for them."

However, self-neglect could sometimes be caused by the onset of dementia or other cognitive problems, she said.

"Older people can, for whatever reason, get into a situation where they are not thinking properly and, therefore, start neglecting themselves."

Community Constable Russ Smith, of Blenheim, confirmed an 84-year-old man had been referred to Age Concern.

Police went to an address on Tuesday over concerns that the man had not been seen, or heard from, for a few days, Mr Smith said.

However, police were satisfied when they left the property that the man was in reasonable health, he said.

The Marlborough Express