When emergency services in the small town of Roasio, in Northern Italy, were alerted that elderly widow Maria Ciccone had not been seen in about a week and that a suspicious smell was coming from her home, they had been prepared for the possibility of finding a body. They had not expected to find two.
The body of Maria, who lived alone with her pet dog after her husband passed away last year, was found next to the body of her beloved dog. She had passed away at least a week prior and, according to investigators, her pet of many years had died before her.
She was found to have died of natural causes, but investigators believe that the grief of losing her dog may have been a significant contributing factor to her death.
Loneliness among the elderly is an extremely common problem in the UK as well; according to charity Age UK, there are “1.4m chronically lonely older people in England, and many more across the rest of the UK”. For these people, pets offer invaluable support and companionship.
Earlier this year, a study found that pet companionship not only helps with loneliness, but also has a role in preventing suicide among the elderly.
One man involved in the research said, “I actually realised the only thing that is really keeping me alive, was these [dogs] and the birds, giving me a chance to get out of bed in the morning.”