The Everyday Drama of Elderly People's Loneliness by Giulio D’Ercole

Life expectancy in Western society has grown more than significantly in recent decades. Italy is the oldest country in Europe, with a percentage of 23% of the population over 65 years old. However, the medical conditions of many elderly people have not improved as they now suffer from severe disabling diseases for many years in the end of their lives. But beyond the medical aspect, these people, once active and an integral part of society, today suffer from a devastating social and cultural marginalization, caused by the technological gap with the younger generations and the lack of interest of the latter towards them. As much as I often see awareness-raising photo reportages focusing on saddening people’s conditions, terminal diseases, or other extraordinary situations, I must say, I do not see the same kind of attention to the drama of common, ordinary, everyday life. This drama surfaced in 2020, when the Coronavirus pandemic and the death brought by Covid-19 brought to light all the vulnerability of the over 65, asking the various countries of the world a fundamental question: do we have to sacrifice our old people seeking herd immunity or do we have to safeguard and protect them? Paradoxically it might be because I saw my father dying of a brain tumor and I am now taking care of my mother, afflicted by a progressive mental decline due to senile dementia, that I chose to focus on the profound “normal and ordinary” everyday loneliness of those men and women that I observe in the streets of my hometown, who could be our grandparents, parents, uncles, and aunts: those who, sometime back in our past, took care of others with their dedication, attention, and love. These ten photos, these ten street photography images, taken in Rome during the last three summers, without indulging in shocking, sensationalistic human suffering, tell the everyday subtle decline and struggles of the most vulnerable. The very same one we are too often blind to before tragedy makes the headlines.

"Hanging On" by Giulio D'Ercole

An old man goes back home on public transportation, listening to the soccer game on his small old transistor radio, held together by a rubber band.

"As Time Goes By" by Giulio D'Ercole

An old woman sits out in the street smoking one cigarette after the other. She just let time pass by as she watched all the people passing by. We were just trespassing.

"Lifetime Routine" by Giulio D'Ercole

Life in Trastevere, a famous traditional neighborhood in old Rome, shows life as it always was with its daily routines. Once the laundry lines were filled with all different clothes of family members. Today, only hers are hanging out.

"Symbiosis" by Giulio D'Ercole

I stood behind the old man and his dog for no less than 15 minutes. I was mesmerized by seeing that whatever posture the man took, so his pet friend did too, almost mimicking him to perfection in a tango of solidarity and empathy. I never saw so much closeness in solitude.

"The Only Love Left" by Giulio D'Ercole

In the busy street of a popular neighborhood of Rome, a woman sits on a bench holding onto her dog as if it was her small young child. Behind her, the cars in the street and the people getting together at the bar are like an unheard background noise. The only thing that counts is her only love left to her.

"Dystopia" by Giulio D'Ercole

In a society that always forces us to follow unreachable dreams and unreal ideals of beauty, elegance, and wealth, many people fall in the cracks, and the reality they find themselves in is the harsh one of being the refused discards of that same society, thrown away in the street, side by side with lies.

"The Waiting" by Giulio D'Ercole

Seated at a corner table along the wall, waiting for something, maybe for someone. The colourful flowers on each and every table look like strange mocking signs of an appointment with romance that will never happen again.

"Resilience and Persistence" by Giulio D'Ercole

August in Rome, the heat fills the empty streets. The only place where one can find some cooler air is the semi-indoor market where most of the stands are closed. An old man walks in the aisle surrounded by the closed stands holding onto his small shopping bags with another going by.

"The Body and Face of Christ" by Giulio D'Ercole

Via della Conciliazione, the large avenue that leads from Castel Sant’Angelo to St. Peter’s Square. Along this road, on benches or on the floor, especially at night, a number of homeless people come to find peace and comfort. When this lady saw me passing by with my camera, she immediately raised her folder to cover her face. Inside the transparent plastic folder, images of Jesus and photos of Pope Francis were orderly placed. The portrait I took became the symbolic image of the body of Christianism in its most relevant meaning: the face of Christ in defense of the most vulnerable.

Look At Me (I Don’t Give Up) by Giulio D'Ercole

A woman in her late 70's at the time of Covid-19. She’s strong, she’s afraid, but she is not giving up. Life is beautiful no matter what, and it deserves to be lived, against all odds, fighting, resisting, hoping. I chose to close this collection with an image that best portrays the challenges and the paradox of the crazy times we are experiencing: a combination of drama and hope in the beautiful face of an old woman, unfortunately partially covered by a life-saving shield. Despite this, what really comes across is the beautiful, calm, deep expression of her dark eyes.

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