Italian police have discovered the mummified remains of a 70-year-old woman sitting at a table more than two years after her death, sparking calls for better care for the elderly in the country.
Marinella Beretta, who had no living relatives, was found in her home in Prestino, near Lake Como in northern Italy. Police came across her remains when she made a house call during high winds in Lombardy, which risked uprooting neglected trees in her garden.
She had not been seen by her neighbors for at least two and a half years, according to Italian media.
“What happened to Marinella Beretta in Como, the forgotten loneliness, hurts our consciences,” Family Minister Elena Bonetti said on Facebook. “We have a duty, as a community that wants to stick together, to remember his life… no one should be left alone.”
Almost 40% of people over the age of 75 in Italy live alone, according to a 2018 report by the national statistics institute. The same number also said they had no relatives or friends to turn to in times of need.
Beretta was “loneliness personified”, wrote journalist Massimo Gramellini on the front page of Corriere della Sera, Italy’s best-selling daily. “Many of us still have memories of the chaotic, branching families of peasant Italy. Instead, the modern family is shrunken… People die alone. And we live alone, which is almost worse.
Her neighbours, who had not seen Beretta since September 2019, assumed she had moved away at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which hit northern Italy in 2020, according to reports. Police found nothing at the scene to suggest foul play and the council were to pay for his funeral and burial.
“The mystery of Marinella’s invisible life behind the closed gate of her cottage teaches us a terrible lesson,” the Messaggero newspaper said. “The real sadness isn’t that others didn’t notice her death. It’s that they didn’t realize Marinella Beretta was alive.
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