Lancashire's oldest woman reunites with family for first time since Covid-19 outbreak
Lancashire's oldest woman, Edna Dewhurst, was reunited with her son Richard for this week for the first time since the pandemic forced them apart in February last year.
For 13 months, 108-year-old Edna was unable to see her family at the Saint Alban’s Nursing Home in Knott End, where she lives, due to strict lockdown rules.
On Monday, however, restrictions on nursing homes were eased, allowing residents to nominate up to two visitors for regular visits - much to the relief of Edna's son, Richard, 74, who visited her on Thursday.
He said: "She has deteriorated over the last 13 months and so it was very difficult to raise a smile from her, and I came away feeling very sad. But it was a very rewarding experience. It has been a long, long time since I last saw her.
"We used to visit her on a regular basis and stay in a bed and breakfast in Blackpool for two nights so we could see her three times at least before coming back to Scarborough, and we have been doing that routine for six or seven years, since she first went into the home.
"It was February last year that we last saw her. At first it didn't seem too bad, because we thought we could have a bit of a rest from travelling from Scarborough to Knott End, and for a couple of months she wouldn't miss us too much. But as time went on we got more and more concerned that she felt she had been abandoned in the nursing home. For thWe knew by November she felt like she was in a prison atmosphere.
"We did try to face-time with her, but unfortunately the volume wasn't sufficiently high for her to hear and her vision isn't good either; it didn't work out and we had to abandon it.
"We feared at her age she could have a problem, a heart attack for example, because her heart is weak - and we would never be able to see her again. That's why this last month we were very keen to make contact and I was very grateful that I was able to go into the lounge and hold her hand."
Edna was born in October 1912, the same year the suffragette movement was in full swing, British explorers finally reached the South Pole, and the RMS Titanic sank during its maiden voyage across the Atlantic.
She married her husband Jim in 1936 and moved to Great Harwood, near Blackburn, where she ran her own grocers’ shop during the Second World War and was responsible for handing out rations to more than 1,000 people. She had two children, Richard and Barbara.
The family moved to Blackpool in 1954 after Jim was diagnosed with lung problems partly caused by breathing in smoke while fighting fires during the war. After his death in 1958, she moved to Knowle Avenue, North Shore, where she remained for 54 years.
In 2013 around Christmas time, when she was 100 years old, she became ill and had to go to Blackpool Victoria Hospital. Afterwards, she moved into Saint Alban's Nursing Home.
Richard said: "For the first three or four months we were really concerned that she wouldn't pull through, but she rallied and she still rallies to this day. It's remarkable that her life has continued so long. At the time we didn't expect her to last many years, and now she's one of the oldest women around.
"She's the 36th oldest person in Britain.
"The home has been a fantastic help. Whenever there has been a change in her health they have been on the phone and they have let us know. One of the carers has been sending photographs of her and the occasional video at Christmas and Easter, and these were really appreciated.
"She has not been able to communicate very well for a long time. In her youth she was a very down to Earth sort of person. She didn't suffer fools. She was very determined to do the things that she wanted to achieve. She ran a very successful grocers shop and she had 10 lady assistants helping her during the war."