The world is a busy place right now - there's a lot going on. And we're all just human so it's an insurmountable task to mentally absorb everything that's happening; good and bad. However, there's a UK wide issue affecting over 1 million people which never ceases to shock me. And it's an issue that most of us never think about, acknowledge or do anything about.
Our elderly are being neglected. According to a survey in December 2014, 2.9 million older people (65+) in Great Britain feel they have no one to turn to for help and support. In April 2014, over 1 million older people say they are always or often feel lonely. Can you believe those statistics? Can you believe this situation manifests when ageing is a biological certainty for us all? I suppose the question is why? Well, I certainly don't have all of the answers. However, what I have learned is that there is an assumption that when people reach a certain age, they're no longer valid. It's almost as if their 'former' life is erased and negated in favour of 'sitting in a home' or whatever other stereotype we push upon them. But here's a story that will change all of that.
I write music with a super-talented vocalist called Hana Christine. Eternally grounded, she continues to work in a nursing home and is training to be a nurse in parallel with her singing. Back in 2013, she told me about a lady in the home who had no friends, no family and was very much alone. On the surface, it appeared that she was suffering from a mental illness so communicating with her took time and patience. Hana had both. Every day, she would indulge the ladies passion for afternoon cream team served from fine bone china where they would chat as much, or as little, as the elderly lady could manage.
What intrigued Hana were the beautiful watercolour paintings that adorned her room. It transpired that she was an artist and had painted them herself. And so began her story.
In the 1960's, the lady was a prolific painter and had received great notoriety for her work. So respected were her abilities with a brush, she was invited to join the Royal Academy of Art - one of the very first women to be asked. A celebration was organised in her honour and one evening the stage was set for her to collect the award she so rightly deserved.
But she never got there.
On the way to the venue, the lady was involved in a serious car accident and suffered irreparable brain damage. She was never the same again and never received her accolade.
The lady continued to paint but life took a sad and somewhat inevitable turn as her friends and family deserted her and she ended up in the nursing home.
Last year, she died. With the exception of Hana, a distant relative and the pall bearers nobody attended the funeral. When Hana returned to the home, the ladies room was being cleared and her belongings disposed of or re-appropriated to other residents. What was shocking, however, was the outdoor skip full or the ladies paintings. They were all there, destined for land fill.
Without hesitation, Hana climbed in and saved every single one. They were the lady's legacy and Hana was determined to honour it. It's important to point out that Hana is a very petite girl so getting in to the skip was no easy task.
Hana was also focussed on remembering her through music. So, last year we wrote a track called 'Cream Tea' which is dedicated to the lady and the memory of her life. Importantly, profits from the track will be going to Age UK.
So there you have it. One of the one million lonely people who had the most remarkable story to tell. Were it not for Hana, her life, paintings and achievements wouldn't even be a footnote. There would be absolutely nothing left of her. It would be like she never existed.
Hana gave the resident time and company. A small thing, but look how far that went. Look what the world gained as a result. How fantastic that we can enjoy her paintings forever thanks to the kindness of one girl.
It begs the question - how many other stories are going to the grave, never told? How many other tales are being quashed by loneliness? One million lonely elderly people is one million too many. We're letting people down, turning our backs and robbing the world of anecdotes, insight and experience. We're also shying away from a possible reflection or our own later lives.
If Hana's tale has taught us anything, time and company is a small investment to ensure the flow of knowledge between generations continues. But most importantly, it's nothing compared to the depth of feeling offered from the release of loneliness and isolation.