Victoria Arbiter: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and her quest to improve the lives of the elderly, inspired by her mother’s pain


Last Monday, during an interview for BBC One’s Morning Live marking World Osteoporosis Day, the Duchess of Cornwall spoke to Gloria Hunniford about the heartache she felt upon seeing her mother, Rosalind Shand, struggle with the terrible disease of weakened bones.

Determined to prevent her grandchildren from suffering a similar fate, she confessed to showing them photos of her mother, before and after the illness, in order to encourage them to take better care of themselves.

She has once praised the “huge strides” made in terms of research since the “dark days” of her mother’s diagnosis, but still, according to the Cleveland Clinic, osteoporosis affects an estimated 200 million people worldwide, with women being four times more likely to have it. .

READ MORE: Camilla talks about the “terrible pain” of her family on a subject “rarely discussed”

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall attends the 2021 Oldie Of The Year Awards in her effort to improve the lives of older people. (Getty)

Speaking candidly about the pain her mother was going through, Camilla said: “Sometimes when she moved or you touched her she would literally scream. I remember when a friend of her came over one day just to give her a hug, and his rib was that bad. “

… They all said the same thing: ‘Sorry you’re old.’ We just watched it shrink before our eyes.

Citing a lack of appreciation for the quality of life of the elderly, the Duchess said very serious health issues are not taken as seriously as they should be.

“My mom went to see everyone you could think of,” she recalls. “And they all said the same thing, ‘Sorry, you’re old.’ We just watched it shrink before our eyes. “

Declaring this “terrible” for the family because they “didn’t know”, she added that “at one point we thought, ‘Well, does she make a lot of fuss? about all of this? ‘”

Unfortunately, she wasn’t making a fuss. At a reception organized on behalf of The Royal Osteoporosis Society in 2016, Camilla said she saw her mother “suffer stoically from the appalling pain and ignominy of this devastating disease, which ultimately resulted in her untimely death at the age of 72”.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, is visiting the Royal Osteoporosis Society in 2019 (Clarence House)

Shand died of osteoporosis in 1994, just eight years after his own mother, Sonia Keppel, died of the debilitating disease at the age of 86.

READ MORE: Camilla delivers a passionate speech on violence against women

In light of her family history, Camilla has worked tirelessly to raise awareness about osteoporosis and she has been actively involved in The Royal Osteoporosis Society For more than 20 years. Appointed godmother of the association in 1997, she was then appointed president in 2001.

In the years that followed, she offered her unwavering support: defending scientists, promoting prevention and stressing the need for education especially with regard to the younger generation. At the official launch of the newly titled company in 2019, she said young people tend to think of osteoporosis as a disease of ‘old people’, but she said: ‘If we can just tell them how bad it is. important to eat the right things, to exercise – these things will go a long way in keeping them healthy. “

Camilla Duchess of Cornwall dancing
Camilla is a fan of dancing and encourages everyone to practice it to improve her health. (PAA)

She shared a comparable point of view with Hunniford earlier this week: “I think we all think we’re immortal when we’re young,” she said.

“I would love to see more young people being educated and understanding about it. Not just thinking ‘poor old bats’, but actually understanding what is going on and how they can prevent it.”

READ MORE: Victoria Arbiter: The power of Sophie, the words of the Countess of Wessex to break a long-held taboo

Since her marriage to the Royal Family in April 2005, the Duchess of Cornwall’s charitable efforts have been varied, but her dedication to the elderly has been a recurring theme. This month she became the patron saint of Money stories, an association which encourages children to read to the elderly in order to fight against loneliness.

For nearly a decade, she was president of The Royal Voluntary Service. Along with the Prince of Wales, she fulfilled her role as the organization’s research boss for the UK Diamond Champions celebrate the contributions of older people to their local communities.

The Duchess of Cornwall has made it her mission to improve the lives of older people. (Clarence House)

As the boss of The silver line, a 24-hour free helpline providing information, friendship and advice to the elderly, she has made a number of calls to those who live alone. In the wake of the pandemic, she contacted Betty, 90, of Hampshire to see how she was coping with the isolation.

After sharing her memories of the war and the hardships associated with separating from her family, Betty said of the Duchess: “It was like talking with old friends. I couldn’t believe how long we were at. telephone.” Camilla said Betty was “a huge pleasure”. Launched in 2013, The silver line receives approximately 10,500 calls per week while volunteers make up to 4,000 weekly friendship calls to seniors.

In a similar vein, Camilla has regularly spoken of the need for older people to stay active so that they do not “get tense” and she has been a strong supporter of Silver swans. Established by the Royal Academy of Dance, of which she is vice-sponsor, the ballet-based program offers classes specially developed for those over 55.

Camilla Duchess of Cornwall gives generous cash donation to victims of bushfires in Australia
Camilla’s charitable work is varied but what remains constant is her commitment to the elderly. (Provided)

During a video call with retired ballerina Dame Darcey Bussell and veteran presenter Angela Rippon, Camilla revealed that she always loved dancing, but never tried ballet. Describing how she was invited to take a class after watching a Silver swans lesson during a visit to RAD in 2018, she said she has been learning at home for almost 18 months.

Although she was worried that she was “wobbling on one leg,” she said, “I got a bunch of old friends together and the four of us kinda smacked and when we are in London , we do it once a week and that makes all the difference. “In-person classes are currently available in parts of the UK, US and Australia, while others can be enrolled. to online courses.

Given our increasingly aging world, Camilla’s approach to aging has been remarkably refreshing.

Although she wasn’t 74 until July, she openly pointed out her personal struggles with aging for years and did so in an effort to eliminate loneliness and get much-needed help with life. a generation often overlooked. Since the general population is living longer than ever before, it is disheartening to see retirees quickly sidelined when we really should be using their knowledge, wisdom and iron will.

Arguably one of Britain’s most prolific PAOs, the Queen graciously declined a trophy from Oldie of the Year Awards at the start of last week saying, “You are not as old as you feel.”

READ MORE: Queen Elizabeth refuses Oldie of the Year award

Camilla attends the 2021 Oldie Of The Year Awards (Getty)

However, as a 2006 recipient of the Spouse of the year, Camilla was on hand to present the publication’s new winners – one of whom was Barry Humphries’ fictional character, Sir Les Patterson – with their framed certificates at the Savoy Hotel in London.

Addressing the gathered guests, she said, “There are some downsides to aging. These drawbacks were summed up quite clearly in a few lines that I encountered recently in Gyles Brandreth’s autobiography. He quoted a poem by John Sparrow, the director of All Soul’s, Oxford. He wrote a line he simply called To get old. He writes: “I am used to my deafness, to my dentures I am resigned. I can stand my bifocals, but – but oh dear! I miss my spirit.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Barry Humpries
Barry Humphries accepts the Wizard of Oz Award for his fictional character Camilla’s Sir Les Patterson. (Getty)

“There are times that I know we all experience those old age times. But there are also benefits of getting older. Watching your children grow up, enjoy their grandchildren and know that they will be returning home after the visit. . Have more time to read, find time to read The old one and come to cheerful breakfasts like this. “

The Royal Family are undoubtedly fortunate to have the Duchess of Cornwall, and by extension the UK is fortunate in having chosen to so passionately defend the elders.

As charming and lovely as young children are, there is much to be gained from a society in which older people are welcomed and intergenerational respect encouraged.

Osteoporosis activist, Silver Swan and a big-hearted royal retiree prone to giggles, the Duchess of Cornwall is living proof that you really aren’t as old as you feel.

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