Lytham gran, 90, who lives alone and her own podcast to combat lockdown loneliness

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“This has been wonderful for me because I live on my own now and my children are scattered, one in Scotland, one in the North of England and my daughter in Australia- it’s been almost two years since I’ve seen her”

 

Doreen Connolly has made a podcast sharing her life memories alongside her son-in-law
Doreen Connolly has made a podcast sharing her life memories alongside her son-in-law

For many, lockdown was a very lonely time but for the elderly, that loneliness was heightened as families were no longer allowed to meet up.

One local woman in Lytham found lockdown to be an incredibly isolating period of her life – with her grown up children and grandchildren scattered across the world, she remained alone in her home.

90-year-old Doreen Connolly was used to having her family over to say multiple times a year, but with her children living abroad, that soon stopped as the pandemic hit.

As with many families, technology became a source of happiness in connecting loved ones virtually and is now something Doreen does regularly.

Having lived throughout many important moments in history, Doreen knew she wanted to share her experiences with others but due to bad eyesight, her plans to write a book crumbled.

While speaking to her loved ones in Australia, Doreen’s son-in-law, Phill Cristofaro who lives in Melbourne, came up with the idea of creating a podcast so that Doreen could share her stories.

After some planning and recording, they soon found it to be a life line during this period of isolation.

The podcast, Mondays With Milly (the name used by Phill for Doreen) is a weekly series talking about each decade of Doreen’s life and the memories she has.

Doreen in the early 1950's
Doreen in the early 1950’s

“We started with the year I was born in 1931 and worked our way from there, my earliest memories were from when I was 3,” Doreen said.

“We talked about my childhood and how things have changed and of course things were very bad at that time in the country – it was really my life story.”

“This has been wonderful for me because I live on my own now and my children are scattered, one in Scotland, one in the North of England and my daughter in Australia- it’s been almost two years since I’ve seen her.”

Mondays With Milly was first created in October 2020 and over 6000 listeners from over 23 countries have tuned in weekly to hear Doreen share her life stories.

In the podcast, Doreen rediscovers her past when she first moved to Lancashire during World War II. She spent her life near Blackpool and Lytham where she brought up her family.

Doreen and her family: father, husband and son in the 1950's
Doreen and her family: father, husband and son in the 1950’s

For Phill, hearing Doreen’s stories and moments in her life, he was able to create a unique connection with his mother-in-law and discovered memories that the rest of the family might not have known too.

“You just take your own family for granted, it’s very natural not to engage in that level of conversation because you feel like you know the story,” Phill said.

“There’s so much more to know about life stories – we think the past is so much different to the present but in fact it’s very similar.”

Just over a year since the podcast first aired, the pair never expected it would gather as much attention from people all around the world.

For Phill, he believes that this can now be used a glimpse into social history and one that the family can treasure.

He said: “You get messages and people reaching out from all walks of life and all ages and people who just love it.

“This has really helped to capture a piece of social history but it’s a really great legacy for our family- it’s so great having this link into the past and so many people comment it’s like being in the room when listening.”

When creating the podcast, three generations of Doreen’s family can be heard during the episode – Doreen, her son-in-law Phill and her granddaughter Niamh who sings the opening songs.

Through doing this podcast, Doreen has described it as a “life-saver” during such difficult times

“Things are pretty bad at the moment and a lot of people are afraid of living, they’re afraid of living normally,” Doreen said.

“Friends are now worried about seeing each other- I do think it’s so sad because we can’t go through our lives afraid, we’ve got to be sensible but enjoy life.”

Phill added: “Through this wonderful and amazing medium, we’ve reach out to new friends.

“For us it’s been a life saver, Milly (Doreen) often refers to her iPad and the project as a life saver.”

The podcast will soon be coming to an end now but all the episodes are available to listen to on streaming services and Phill hopes to create a free education resource for local schools who can use Doreen’s stories as a way to learn about the past.