I work with older adults. One of our friends in another local agency faxed us a Mark Hare column in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, about a man named Charles Lyon, found dead in his home in Rochester. It's estimated that he had been dead for three months or more before he was found. He had no family in the area and no close friends.
Lyon had been ill for a long time and had regular visits from a county caseworker. When she visited the home in November and December of last year and got no response from Lyon, neighbors told her they thought he'd gone into a nursing home. When she couldn't find him in the system she called the police, who determined that they didn't have sufficient cause to enter the home. The caseworker contacted the police again, and 12 days later they did go inside the home, where they found Lyon dead.
Tony Powlowski, a neighbor of Lyon's, noted, "People need to pay more attention to each other."
Hare writes: "The death of Charles Lyon is troubling because it represents a reality none of us wants. Each of us wants to matter, to be important to the people in our lives. This is part of the human essence -- the deep desire to be a part of community, to impact those in our community, to leave something of ourselves behind, to know that we will be missed."
Hare goes on to say, "And then one day, probably in October, [Lyon] went inside his house and never left it again. Somewhere along the way, Charles Lyon became disconnected; he lost contact with family and friends. He knew his neighbors, but only superficially. It's not uncommon. We are acquainted with the people who live nearby, but that doesn't mean we have a relationship, or a key to their homes, or permission to check in when we suspect trouble...there is a natural tendency to keep our distance for the sake of our privacy. But that impulse carries a great risk. It is rare indeed to become as disconnected as Charles Lyon was at the end of life, but it is possible.
"More than 400 years ago, poet John Donne wrote that 'no man is an island, entire of itself; each man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.' Sadly, as Tony Powlowski says, if we don't 'pay more attention to each other,' some will drift out to sea."