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Your Later Life Q4 2021

Learning to cope with life after death

Photo provided by Marie Curie

Janet Ellis (pictured)

Marie Curie Ambassador

Janet Ellis shares her experiences of coping with a bereavement in later life and how talking helped her come to terms with the death of her husband.

My husband, John, died of stage four secondary lung cancer in July 2020.

After John’s diagnosis, we had another two and half years together. We didn’t investigate the prognosis and I think I’m relieved I didn’t know it could have been less time. Otherwise, every time he’d so much as stubbed his toe I might have thought: could this be this it?!

Having difficult conversations

We had 35 years of conversations, including the sort of important conversations you probably don’t know you’re having. There’s nothing I wish I’d asked him and it was important and we knew what mattered most to each other. Obviously, we had to discuss him being in hospital and his care afterwards, which are probably not conversations you imagine having. But that doesn’t mean they’re impossible to have.

For me, it was all about talking at first. It helped and still does.

Building support networks

When John died there was an extraordinary, sudden and complete absence. I was not in any way prepared for how that would feel. I would take my dog for a walk every day and ask different people to walk with me every day. Anyone who asked how they could help was invited along. They all listened to me trying to make sense of it all – I’ve always found talking about how I’m feeling necessary and therapeutic. Side by side conversations can be both very freeing and very intimate. Of course, there are lovely distractions along the way too.

I’ve gradually built a network of people who support me in all sorts of ways could help with particular things, including my lovely children, of course. I think you discover quickly who can help put you back together and its not always the people you’d expect.

For me, it was all about talking at first. It helped and still does.

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Ensuring digital technology is accessible for all generations

Harriet Gridley

UK Director, No Isolation

Human contact, love and close relationships are important for everyone, no matter their age or physical abilities.

There is a growing concern that smartphones and social media have largely moved social networks from analogue to digital platforms, often leaving the technologically inexperienced and elderly behind.

No one should be made to feel stupid, dependent on others, or excluded from the internet, yet 46% of people 75 and over in the UK are not online (ONS, 2021). Age UK reports that 1.4 million older people in the UK are often lonely, with the number potentially much higher.

Addressing the digital divide

Most digital technology is simply not accessible to older users, due to many reasons such as memory loss, reduced circulation in fingertips and auditory impairments. The digital divide has never mattered more.

We all have an experience of helping our older relatives use tech a nd then realising how difficult it can be.

Most digital technology is simply not accessible to older users.

At No Isolation, we want to empower everyone to have meaningful digital connections when their situation prevents them from connecting in person. Our recent research estimates as many as 5.6 million people over the age of 65 in the UK find touchscreens difficult or impossible to use (Source: No Isolation, 2021).

Simplifying existing technology – such as smartphones and tablets – is not the answer to truly inclusive design.

One solution is Komp, which is operated using only one button but enables those who have been digitally excluded to engage in video calls and content sharing with their loved ones.

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