Six days before Christmas an elderly Princeton woman was found, by RCMP, dead in her downtown home.
Police say she died of causes that were not suspicious, but they could not determine how long her body lay undiscovered.
Her dog and longtime companion, a Jack Russell Terrier, was dead beside her, having likely perished from either starvation or dehydration.
A neighbour alerted the local detachment to a potential problem, after the woman had not been seen outside for several weeks.
It’s improbable any intervention would have saved the woman’s life, although a more timely response could have resulted in a rescue of the dog.
It’s a sad and stark statement on the dangers of isolation.
Moreover, it’s a reminder of the importance of knowing your neighbours, and checking up on them.
That something like this can happen is all too understandable.
Thirty nine per cent of Princeton homes are occupied by a single resident. (2016 Census). Many of those residents are seniors.
And people are busy. They don’t know the folks next door the way their parents might have done. The woman down the street who shows too much interest in those around her is considered nosy. Neighbours are as likely to argue over the height of a fence or whose cat pooped in the front garden, as they are to share a chat about current events.
Letter carriers used to provide an unofficial safety net, if they were observant on their rounds. But Princeton has no door-to-door mail delivery.
Surprisingly an on-line search for examples of community programs that monitor seniors living alone turns up…absolutely nothing.
There are lots of Neighbourhood Watch groups in the country, but those are focused around the idea of protecting stuff and identifying potential bad guys.
Ideally (and how hard could it be in a small town?) there would be an organized way of checking up on vulnerable people - just to make sure they are okay. Just to make sure they are still alive.
At the very least we could all be more vigilant in watching out for one another. It’s not creepy to take note of a neighbour’s habits or property if you are doing it for benevolent reasons.
Have the blinds moved recently? Are the lights stuck on or off? Is the grass getting long or is the snow accumulating on the walk?
If you are worried about someone, knock on his or her door.
If you haven’t seen a neighbour in a day or two, call the RCMP and ask them to perform a wellness check. They won’t mind.
You might save a life - even if it’s just the life of someone’s beloved Jack Russell Terrier.
- The Similkameen Spotlight