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My sister is lonely.

(24 Posts)
Greatnan Sat 02-Jun-12 21:10:12

My sister is 75 and lives alone on a council estate in Manchester. She does not drive and the little bus stops running at 4 p.m. (Thanks, Stagecoach!)
She was quite happy until recently - she belongs to two groups and enjoys the various activities and outings. She had become very close friends with a woman in a similar position and was very fond of her. Then a new woman joined both groups and began to 'take over' my sister's friend. The new woman has a car and at first she took both of them on outings, but then my sister found out she had been taking just her friend out, and neither of them had mentioned it. The friend is not very bright and is easily led - I met her and thought she was probably not lively enough for me sister (she has to translate any word of more than two syllables for her) but Kath enjoyed their friendship.
Now, things have come to a head, with the new woman screaming abuse at my sister at the end of one meeting and repeating what the 'friend' had told her Kath had said about her.
Kath tells me that all the other women in the group have either partners or already have close friends. Because of the poor public transport, if Kath goes out at night it means taking a taxi both ways which limits her very much. She has heart and spine problems and cannot walk for more than a hundred yards or so. She has two sons who live within a couple of miles but they are not prepared to offer her any lifts, other than the occasional run to the airport when she goes to visit her helpful son, who unfortunately lives in Glasgow.
I have suggested that she makes a determined effort to introduce herself to any new woman who joins the groups and sees if anyone is in the same boat as herself. I have also suggested she takes a class or two at the local library and she says she will make enquiries about the historical and genealogical groups, which both interest her. She took a computer course but she has never learnt to use her answerphone or programme her VCR,and she has no computer for practice. She likes reading so I have suggested she find a reading group too. She can get to the library fairly easily and most activities take place there.
Kath is friendly, outgoing and interested in other people. She had a couple of friends in her street, but they have both died.
I know some of our members find themselves in a similar situation, and I wonder if anyone can offer any more advice.
I live in a far more isolated place and my best friend lives in another country, but I am happy with my situation and I have my computer and my car.

Ariadne Sat 02-Jun-12 21:26:44

And what a difference those last two things make, especially if coupled with good health, don't they? Your sister is in such an isolated position, and I can tell you're worried about her. I don't have any suggestions other than the ones you've made, Greatnan, but I know other GNs may have some thoughts.

Is your sister still with you?

Greatnan Sat 02-Jun-12 23:11:25

Thank you, Ariadne. I saw her off at Geneva airport on Wednesday (well, I handed her over to the wheelchair assistance people,but of course I couldn't go through passport control with her). We had a lovely time together and met granjura at Montreux for lunch. I was able to pamper her for nine days and show her my beautiful area. The big scene with her former friend happened on Thursday - Kath was left shaking as this very tall and large woman was jabbing a finger in her face. Fortunately, the woman who runs the Thursday group was at hand to take her for a cup of tea and comfort her.

Joan Sun 03-Jun-12 01:49:05

Why are people so horrible? I've heard of such things at my U3A at Ipswich, but luckily none of it has touched me. I'm glad someone was there to give Kath comfort.

Could the family chip in to get her a computer with internet connection? I get lonely because I'm carer for my agoraphobic husband so we rarely go out. I just have my U3A Wednesdays but being here, online, makes the world of difference.

I think the woman who runs the group might do something to alleviate Kath's upset, now that she's seen what has happened.

I do hope things will improve - my own experience is that they usually do!

Joan Sun 03-Jun-12 02:05:35

Regarding this bit:

Now, things have come to a head, with the new woman screaming abuse at my sister at the end of one meeting and repeating what the 'friend' had told her Kath had said about her.

I think this is a classic case of guilt being twisted to anger against the person she feels guilty about. She feels guilty about the way she's treated Kath, hates that feeling, so turns it to anger.

Anyway, who needs a thick disloyal friend? The new woman who took over Kath's friend will soon get fed up of her, and what then?

Greatnan Sun 03-Jun-12 06:57:55

I am afraid, Joan, that my nephews are not very supportive of Kath, even though she let them live at home throughout their time at Manchester university, and they made very small contributions to the household budget.
Her deceased husband (they were separated when he died) was incredibly selfish and uncaring and I am afraid his sons took their cue from him. I have taken her on holiday , and her children when they were little, for nigh on 50 years, entirely at my expense. She is not too badly off now, as she gets various benefits, including Attendance Allowance, and has no rent or council tax, bus fares or prescription charges to pay.
The woman who runs the Thursday group is not a volunteer, but is paid by the council (it is for people who may have suffered depression) so she has to be very careful to remain impartial, but Kath says it was obvious that she disapproved of the 'new friend's' actions.
The Wednesday group is just for women of all ages and whilst it gets good support from Salford council it is run by volunteers. The other women had noticed that Kath's erstwhile friend no longer sat with her and of course they asked if they had fallen out. Kath is very likeable (even if her scattiness does drive me mad sometimes!) and I am sure she will get support from the group, but she really needs a 'best friend'.

nelliedeane Sun 03-Jun-12 09:37:39

Oh greatnan the playground never really goes away does it,I am hearing stories like this everyday from someone 60 Years Kaths junior,if I was near your sister I would visit her and take her out I can only suggest age uk who have volunteer befrienders who are able to offer lifts and accompany to clubs etc,I used to do something similar with young mums and families for a perinatal support group,my mum often found herself in these situations at her complex she lived in and she also had this experience with a newcomer usurping a 60 year friendship.IHope Kath tries the befrienders as they really are a godsend.Good wishes to Kath ..xxxxxxx

Hunt Sun 03-Jun-12 09:42:12

Do see if you can manage to get your sister a computer. My DGS worked for a local charity which sent computer experts into old peoples' homes and showed them how to do the things they wanted to do. All she needs to learn is how to do emails and access Gransnet to start with.

granjura Sun 03-Jun-12 09:47:18

Such a shame your sister had to go back home after the fantastic visit she had with you. She is such a lovely person.

Greatnan Sun 03-Jun-12 09:47:48

Thanks, nellie, I will certainly tell her about Befrienders. I still find it hard to believe that Kath is 75 as she is so youthful in her attitude to life, in spite of her heart and spine problems. However, like me she has no interest in having a relationship with a man (other than friendship) and she found it rather embarrassing when her former friend would talk about trying to 'cop off' with the few available single men in their circle. She is wondering if the new friend is 'up for it' and that is her big attraction, apart from having a car.

Jacey Sun 03-Jun-12 09:53:06

I'm so sorry to hear about your sister Greatnan there a WRVS centre your sister could get to ...they would be supportive and offer groups and outings too?

Greatnan Sun 03-Jun-12 09:54:57

That is another good idea which I will suggest to her. It all depends on transport, of course, but it may be that she can contact a group which can offer her lifts.

AlisonMA Sun 03-Jun-12 10:08:25

I would think that as this has only just happened it was very much foremost in her mind when she went to stay with you. Often after a period of reflection things don't seem quite so bad.

It sounds as if those who run the centres she goes to are sensitive so let's hope they make sure your sister is included when she goes this week.

Does she have an all-inclusive phone contract so that she can talk to people without worrying about the cost? I agree with those who think she would be better off with a computer if you can organise that somehow, then she could skype with you. There may be charities which could supply one.

How long has she lived there? Is it sheltered accommodation where she could mix with others?

Maybe she will feel intimidated about going back to where this happened so new interests might be good, U3A?

Those who have been bullied, at school, at work or online will fully understand her predicament and sympathise.

j04 Sun 03-Jun-12 10:11:53

It does sound as though she is making every possible effort to help herself. You've got to admire her for it. I hope things look up. She mustn't let this put her off.

I wonder why the sons don't help much. Have they got families?

Sorry if that's too nosey.

Greatnan Sun 03-Jun-12 10:15:07

Thank you, Alison. My sister has lived in her house for 25 years and would be very unhappy if she had to leave it. In spite of her disabilities, she still does her own decorating and gardening. She is not what you would normally think of as 'a little old lady'! She takes very great care with her make-up, hair and clothes (I am the unmade-up scruffy one) and I think she looks about ten years younger than her age.
She is not actually an easily-bullied type in normal circumstances and she is on very good terms with all the other people in both groups, so I am sure she will soon find another special friend. I have been to one of her groups several times when I have been visiting her and they seem to be exceptionally nice people and they made a big fuss of her, getting us cups of tea, etc. There is just this one woman who has made life difficult and, as you say, I am sure things will soon blow over.

nanaej Sun 03-Jun-12 11:07:14

Is there a WI nearby? When I was in Sth London we had a Sunday Lunch Club where single (by choice or widowed etc) women who wanted to get together did so for a Sunday Lunch (a time when families often get together). Often they went to a pub or cafe but sometimes each took a part of a meal to a member's house. They helped each other with transport. There is a joining fee for WI but it meets once a month and often have clubs etc, that meet in between. Look in the NFWI website to see if there is one near your sister. It's not all jam and Jerusalem!

AlisonMA Sun 03-Jun-12 11:20:07

Another thought, our local paper always has coach trips advertised and they pick up locally. Some are day trips and some a bit longer. I've never been on one but they often go to interesting places and she would be bound to meet new people.

Greatnan Sun 03-Jun-12 12:31:54

Yes, I went on a five day trip to Salzburg which was organised by the Kent Messenger when I lived in Kent. I was the only single person, but everyone was very friendly and I didn't feel left out. I am not sure I could do it now, though, as I like to be able to visit the toilet whenever I like!
I think the WI still has a 'tweeds and pearls' image which is probably no longer justified.

granjura Sun 03-Jun-12 16:41:08

In the town where I lived one coach firm had coach trips every single day - with a huge variety, and pick ups all over town. Most of the clients were regulars, all retirees- and had all got to know each other. I went on several trips with a French friend of mine (who also lived in the same UK town) and we were so welcomed. I also went on my own a few times, and again the welcome was fantastic- and great value.

Greatnan Sun 03-Jun-12 17:55:09

When my father died at 59, my mother was devastated, but her life actually improved considerably once she had got over the shock. She started to go on coach trips on which she made many women friends. My father had always refused to go away even for a day and she was not independent enough to go alone until he died.
I think if I were still living in England, I would take some of the holidays where you have lecturers on history, or music - I wouldn't mind short cruises with plenty of stops, say round the Greek Islands. I think they are comparatively expensive but they do look interesting. (Hmm... I suppose there is no reason to stop me booking one from France.)

nanaej Sun 03-Jun-12 18:52:15 no tweeds and pearls here! But some are staid so you do have to look & try!!

AlisonMA Sun 03-Jun-12 19:05:14

Or join a theatre club, most places have them.

Maniac Sun 03-Jun-12 19:32:18

Greatnan I agree that Libraries often organise gps.e.g Book clubs and give computer help in small gps.
I'm 6 yrs older than your sister - still drive but don'tdo evening activities unless I get a lift.I prefer activities which are not age related e.g.painting,singing,I help at Fair trade cafe and environment gp. I go to an over 70 exercise gp and on a weekly health walk -2 levels .The shorter one 1/2 hour) has people like me who use walking sticks .
So glad to have my computer.and to have met all you lovely GNs.
I feel a bond with you-grew up in poverty in Lancs.I like my own company but haven't got your energy and never worked for a millionaire!
Give my best wishes to your sister

Greatnan Sun 03-Jun-12 19:36:52

Thank you, maniac, that is very kind of you. I sometimes feel guilty because I am so fit and well and have such a good life, apart from the one obvious continuing sadness and anxiety about one of my daughters.
I think our shared childhood poverty binds my sister and myself very closely - she was a second mother to me.