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Older people tell their stories about love lost and lived: 'It wasn’t until she died my happiness died'

Article By: Sue Learner, Editor

A group of Londoners aged from 75 to the age of 95 have been telling their stories of when they fell in love and the difference it made to their lives.

These fourteen people took part in Love Lived, a collaborative project, combining video and photographs, capturing their stories and thoughts on the topic of love.

Many in the group have lost their partners and are still struggling to come to terms with their loss.

Ninety-one-year-old Harry, reveals that he knew as soon as he saw his wife at the age of 16, that he loved her and says: “I enjoyed my marriage. Every day was a happy day for me. It wasn’t until she died my happiness died. I have never really been happy again”.

“We used to dance around the living room. It wasn’t dancing really, it was more shuffling and she would have her head on my shoulder.

“My daughter came in and caught us a few times dancing like that. We would also hold hands having a cup of tea.

“That was me and my wife, we adored each other. I would kiss her all the time. I bought her a big heart and when she died I put it in her coffin. When she died I felt as though she put a dagger in my heart and it is still there.

'I sit on my own and I think about her,' he says.

'I wish he was still here. He died in my arms.'

Kathleen, aged 86, tells a similarly sad tale about losing her life partner at the age of 41. “I wish he was still here. He died in my arms. I will never forget him.

Kathleen - Credit: Holly Wren Photography Ltd

“They say that as the years go by it gets lighter but it doesn’t, it gets worse. You never get over it if you truly love someone. I am old fashioned and I think you can only truly love one person in your life.”

Sidney’s relationship was more marked by ups and downs with him walking out on the marriage after 10 years. He ended up returning and says: “I think myself lucky that I stayed with her for 62 years.”

The 90-year-old reveals how they met during the Second World War in 1943. “I saw her on the train. The only way to see her again was to steal her handbag. So I did. I stole her handbag. So that was how we started our courtship.

People who say marriage was all roses - 'It is just not true'

“We had our up and downs. People who say they were married and it was all roses. It is just not true.

“If I hadn’t been courting, I wouldn’t have come out of the army. The downside of married life is that you can’t do what you can when you are in the army.”

His advice to young people today is “don’t get married, don’t worry about a piece of paper, go and see places. Have children, bring them up and then decide about getting married”.

Photographed in his kitchen at home, unable to use the living room which he keeps as a shrine to Winifred, Sidney confides that the greatest treasures from his marriage are their son, daughter and grandchildren, describing them as the “biggest present you can ever get”.

Eighty-one-year-old Joan, reveals how fear of rejection has led her to push love away all of her life.

“I was kissed by this boy. I was 13 and my body was on fire. My heart was throbbing, I was in love. How many times was I in love. So many times.

“Then you get older and you start to fear rejection. The war shaped the way our family was and made me cautious of rejection.”

'I have pushed love away'

She revealed that if anyone got too close she would reject them.

She set up three dating businesses and says: “I never stopped working. I didn’t want to get married because of the fear of feeling trapped,” and reveals she ended up homeless and penniless.

“I regret not having grandchildren and not being loved. It is my fault. I have pushed love away too much.”

The project Love Lived, which is currently on display at the Broadgate Tower in London is a collaborative project between photographer Holly Wren, video production agency Bold Content, Broadgate Towers and Contact the Elderly.

Sidney - Credit: Holly Wren Photography Ltd

Adam Neale, managing director of Bold Content Video, reveals that “one of the main reasons why I got involved with Love Lived is because I love hearing stories”. He adds: “I was intrigued by the possibility of listening to elderly people tell me some of their best stories from a lifetime of experiences. I was really happy to be able to capture them on video and share them with the world. These people have lived long and rich lives and their wisdom was invaluable. It certainly changed my perspective on the whole subject of love and I believe that anyone viewing the videos will gain the same appreciation for what it means to have lived and loved.”

Photographer Holly Wren was “inspired to create this exhibition to show that experiences of love are universal and transcend the boundaries of age. People of any age who visit the exhibition can find something to relate to in the unique stories told by the sitters and will be moved and inspired by what they hear”.

Since 1965, Contact the Elderly has been organising tea parties throughout the UK for people aged 75 or over who live alone with little to no support from friends, family or statutory services.

Mary Rance, chief executive of Contact the Elderly, says: “We are thrilled to partner with Holly on this powerful photography project. We hope people visiting the exhibition will be encouraged to think more about older people in our society and help us extend our vital lifeline of friendship by donating as much or as little as you can.”

The exhibition is on display at First and Second Floor Lobbies, The Broadgate Tower, London, EC2A 2EW until 10th June 2016. Entry is free.

The videos and photographs of the storytellers can be found at


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