Updated: Saturday, 15th June 2019 @ 8:23am

Salford University study challenges stereotypes of widows as 'lonely and isolated'

Salford University study challenges stereotypes of widows as 'lonely and isolated'

By Claire Holden

A Salford University doctor is supporting widows by challenging the traditional view that once a loved one has been lost, women become vulnerable and inactive.

A study, conducted by Dr Tracy Collins of Salford University, has shown that although the loss of a spouse is one of the most stressful life events that can be experienced, the majority of widows between the age of 62 and 90 are in fact highly active.

Many widows have been found to take on extra responsibilities such as caring for older family members and grandchildren, or joining volunteering groups.

Dr Collins said: “The old stereotype of widowhood is a lonely, isolated woman living without much stimulation or activity in her life. The majority of women I met were a far cry from this and have seized many opportunities that modern society has to offer.”

When Mrs Dawson lost her husband 14 years ago, her family were on-hand to offer her support, but she did not want to be dependent on them. Instead she volunteered to help young children at Summerville Primary School in Stretford to read.

Mrs Dawson said: “It’s not easy, it’s never easy, but if you don’t take a step forward, you’ll never make one.”

She is now an active member of an elderly people’s support group where she organises walking trips as well as regularly going to the theatre and keep-fit classes.

Mrs Dawson added: “Before, you always had somebody there. When there’s just one of you it’s different, you have to go out and find company.”

Dr Collins, of the School of Health Sciences, found that occasionally widows would in fact take on too many extra responsibilities, which would become difficult to manage over time.

The study also found that the quality of personal relationships is more important than the size of a widow’s social network, and Dr Collins warns not to make assumptions about a woman’s support network. While a woman may have a stable support network, it may be that practical support is lacking.