Look out for elderly neighbours says pensioner who survived for weeks on cheese
- Credit: Nick Butcher
A simple act of kindness can save a life.
No one knows this more than Diane Geraghty.
Earlier this year the 76-year-old was forced to survive for weeks on cheese left over from her husband's funeral after the pension department wrongly thought she had died. The pensioner slowly starved for more than a month until David Kinsella, a total stranger, noticed her looking distressed in her front garden.
He struck up a conversation and after hearing what had happened helped Mrs Geraghty contact the Department for Work and Pensions and resolve the issue.
And now Mrs Geraghty is calling for people to follow in Mr Kinsella's footsteps and look out for their elderly neighbours battling loneliness who may be in need.
She said: 'Another couple of weeks and I would have died.
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'But David came along and helped me – he does a lot of good and helps so many people.
'If there were more people like that, who spoke to neighbours and made sure they are not lonely, the world would be a better place.'
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In April Mrs Geraghty lost her husband of 25 years Joseph Michael Geraghty and spoke of the loneliness people in a similar position can feel.
She said: 'I sympathise with people dealing with loneliness.
'I am lonely as far as Joseph isn't with me, but I take the dogs for a walk and I chat to people so that breaks up the monotony.
'If neighbours are on their own and elderly you should knock on the door from time to time.
'People like privacy but you don't know what might happen.
'There are a lot of people who are lonely who could do with a kind word and would be glad someone is being helpful towards them.'
Mrs Geraghty hid her troubles from neighbours but admits having gone through such an ordeal she would encourage others to speak out if in need.
She added: 'My neighbours always said all you have to do is knock on the door any time of the day and night.
'But I was raised to be independent; it was instilled in us not to knock on people's doors.
'But after an awful thing like that I would have a different attitude.'
Many charities across the region are backing the fight against loneliness.
Jo Reeder, of Age UK Suffolk said: 'We live in an ageing society and we would encourage everyone of all ages to check up on elderly relatives and neighbours on a regular basis to ensure that they are keeping well, fed, warm and have everything they need – particularly for those living in rural areas, in extreme weather, or people who may not be as mobile as they would like.
'The value of just a simple conversation for a lonely older person is huge, and we know that one in ten people aged over 65, say that they are often or always lonely, sometimes going for a month or more without a proper conversation.
She added: 'Just a simple knock on an elderly neighbours door to check if they are ok, or if they need anything, can sometimes be the most important thing that happens in that day, and can often be life-changing.'