'They're afraid of dying alone': Petawawa, Ont. senior shares story of loneliness
PETAWAWA, ONT. -- David Anstey lives alone in his apartment in Petawawa, Ont. He feels lonely and isolated, and believes there are many other seniors in his exact situation who all share the same looming feeling.
"They're afraid of dying alone, which is exactly my position and where I am," the 82-year-old tells CTV News Ottawa.
Anstey has lived in Petawawa for about 20 years now. He says his wife died some time back, and his only family is his son in British Columbia who he talks with over email. He says the neighbours next door and below his apartment have moved out, and his only friend in the area is recovering from surgery.
"The only way that people are going to know that I'm dead is the stink will get up in the hallway," Anstey says, bluntly. "Doesn't sound very appetizing but I'm trying to be a realist here. It's scary."
In his day-to-day life Anstey publishes an online advertisement flyer called pennypincher.ca. It's all done on his laptop in his living room, meaning he doesn't head into the office or printing station anymore. Periodically, Anstey heads out to pick up groceries, prescriptions, and run errands, but his 2002 Buick only takes him so far - Anstey says it broke down a couple days after speaking to CTV News Ottawa.
Anstey refers to himself as a 'senior senior', a reference to how long the 82-year-old has spent a senior in society's standards. And at 82, Anstey says the fear of dying alone is ever present given the reality of his situation.
"It's something that everybody who becomes a senior, especially a senior senior, has to think about."
Despite the physical void, Anstey isn't alone in his predicament. According to A Friendly Voice, a senior's help line for people experiencing isolation and loneliness, Statistics Canada reports an estimated 1.6 million elderly Canadians feel lonely.
"We have statistics around the 80 per cent mark of seniors living alone right now within Canada, who are lonely and isolated," says Kelly Dumas, Executive Director of Rural Ottawa South Support Services, which runs A Friendly Voice.
"We are that neutral, non-judgemental person that [seniors] can communicate with freely," says France Connor, the Program Manager at A Friendly Voice. Their number is 613-692-9992 or toll free at 1-855-892-9992.
Dumas says her organization can connect seniors through community resource centres and support service agencies for opportunities like congregate dining programs and support groups, many of which can be accessed by calling 2-1-1.
Seniors' Centre Without Walls is another programs which offers a call-in line that can connect lonely seniors, and also hosts games like trivia and bingo, and guest speakers at various sites throughout Ontario.
Carefor Health and Community Services in Pembroke tell CTV News they have contacted Anstey and plan to do a home assessment in the near future.
Anstey is hopeful that in sharing his story and struggles, it will start a local conversation and help him - and people similar to him - build new friendships.
"Let's hope it will generate a network of people who understand what I'm saying and they're shaking their heads vertically saying I know what you're talking about and what you're feeling, and how can I get involved."