Two years went by before one elderly Central Otago resident welcomed a visitor to his door.
In some respects, the man, who wished to remain anonymous, was not alone.
His story was just one of many Central Otago Age Concern co-ordinator Marie Roxburgh was aware of.
Every one of them had the potential to result in severe loneliness.
She knows the people on her books were just the tip of the iceberg, with many others in society who might not have been brought to her attention.
“It’s not unusual,” she said, as she explained the length of time some people go without a visitor.
As a result, some people believed they had forgotten how to communicate with the outside world, Mrs Roxburgh said.
Some sit alone fearing the worst.
“I’ve got lots of them that worry who is going to know if they have a medical event at night,” she said.
Mrs Roxburgh also received a referral for a woman who was feeling “very lonely and scared that no-one was going to find her dead” because no-one called in to see her.
A visitor now calls on the woman for an hour each week as part of Age Concern’s accredited visiting service.
“It’s completely changed her. She’s even gone back to baking scones . . . and the change in her is unbelievable. It’s only one hour, once a week, but it’s something she looks forward to.
“For a lot of people, these are the only people they see.”
Mrs Roxburgh would love more people to volunteer their time to the visiting service.
There are more than 65 people who receive visits through the programme throughout Central Otago, but more were waiting.
“I’ve got lots of them that worry who is going to know if they have a medical event at night.” – Central Otago Age Concern co-ordinator Marie Roxburgh
Their needs could not be met unless more people volunteered their time.
People who now benefit from the service are “mostly” in Alexandra, Cromwell and Wanaka.
“I do have [people receiving visits in] Roxburgh, Ranfurly and Naseby, but not as many because I don’t have the visitors.”
She said society had changed.
“We’ve changed so much in ethos where we all used to look after each other. People don’t want to get involved, they feel like they are intruding,” she said, of people who could be checking on their neighbour, or someone they know in their community who lives alone.
“It’s just how life is.”
However, she said the growing trend to keep people in their homes longer had attributed to the need she was now seeing, and the risk of “loneliness”.
“I want to know that everyone’s safe and that loneliness, which is one of our worst determinants of health as we get older, won’t be around. It takes a village to raise a child, but we should [also] be valuing our older adults.”
To find out more about the accredited visiting service phone Marie on 03) 448-7075.