It is a sign of the times, and it's not pleasant.

About two weeks ago, two elderly men passed away in their homes in Napier.

They were dead for a few weeks before anyone realised, and as happens in these instances, the decomposition of their bodies alerted neighbours to their plight.

I was once asked to identify a reclusive friend, who had been dead for weeks.

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A police sergeant that I knew rang and asked if I could do it. I said yes, and he explained that Carl had been dead for a few weeks. "You know what that means, it's not going to be very pleasant.'' It was summer, and well, you can imagine.

As it was, that was all I had to do, after someone else undertook the formality.

I hadn't seen Carl in a while, despite the fact we both lived in a small town.

He had no family in the North Island, and a chronic alcohol problem that attracted the sort of people who didn't become close mates. That was his story. The two men who died in Napier this week will have their own stories, of course.

No one had seen them for a while, and they were both living alone it seems.

Does it signal an erosion of the sense of community that once existed? We no longer need to pop next door to borrow a cup of flour, we can order one to be delivered with our groceries.

We don't grow vegetables to share with our neighbours, if we are lucky a polite wave is all we exchange, or we usher our kids inside before encountering the "strangers" over the fence.

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These are general observations, as we say, the men who died this week will have their own stories. But it as an utter tragedy that some of the final chapters of their lives have been written in the local newspaper.

We are speeding along the information superhighway to a future where technology, if we choose, will render us housebound with poor social skills, and no real friends.

Somewhere along that highway, billboards should be screaming "slow down".

As police have said this week, talk to your neighbours. It won't kill you to say hello and it might even save their life.