My great great grandmother lived to be 102 years old. She died in her own bed in a house that had been home to her for many decades. A woman who cherished her independence, Catherine Richardson was a quick-witted and sprightly centenarian who insisted on making her way to the polling booth to cast her vote in every election. ‘Women were long enough fighting for the vote,’ she would say to my mother, who was twelve when she died and by her bed as she took her last breath. I think the last time Granny Richardson participated in an election was in 1948, a few months before she passed away. So determined was she to vote that the parish priest was sent for to bring her in his car to the polling station, as it was a bit too far for her to walk.
Recently, in a town where I used to live, an elderly lady was attacked in her home in the early hours of the morning. Two men in their twenties, with no trace of a conscience, kicked in her door and assaulted her for an hour. The woman, who was ninety-two years of age, sustained broken ribs and other serious injuries including blows to her back, that resulted in her being hospitalized. What kind of men can do that to a defenseless older person? Her life is shattered.
Having lived for most of her adult days in that house, she fears moving back home again. Unlike my great great grandmother, that unfortunate victim of such a cowardly assault may not get to live out her last years in her own home. Although the windows had bars on them and the doors were very securely locked, it didn’t deter those evil men. Probably because she was taken so much by surprise, the poor lady didn’t even get a chance to sound off the alarm she wore around her neck.
Such a disgusting incident serves to remind us of the elderly or infirm living in our communities, sometimes alone but very capable. Many cherish their independence and are to be commended for taking care of themselves, often under difficult circumstances. If neighbours can keep and eye on them and offer help, in a tactful way, it can make all the difference to them continuing to live in their own home for as long as possible. Sooner or later, if we live to a ripe old age, we may find ourselves in the same position.
The local Gardaí say they are following a definite line of inquiry. I hope with all my heart they find and prosecute those two men that have no conscience whatsoever, and that the judicial system gives them the harshest possible sentence.