Roswitha Horn, AustriaRoswitha Horn was born in 1935, growing up in hardship during World War II and the post-war years in Europe. “Healthy food, vitamins – catchwords of today – didn’t exist then. My mother, a widow with two children, had her hands full just trying to keep our stomachs full.

Since we lived in the city, we never got enough to eat and there were practically no dairy products for us children,” recalls Roswitha. Although not a particularly robust child, Roswitha had the good fortune to avoid illness despite the lack of food. At 19 she married, became the mother of three children, and continued to enjoy good health. Roswitha made sure that her children were getting healthy food, and even today she is very aware of the importance of good nutrition.

In 1994, at 57, she had a DXA scan (a bone density test) for the first time. Osteoporosis was diagnosed. “I didn’t take it seriously at all. I was not in pain, I felt good, and I assumed that since I was leading a healthy lifestyle I could simply ignore the diagnosis. I was not aware of the implications of osteoporosis or the importance of taking medication,” recalls Roswitha. She further explained that her husband of 50 years, who passed away recently, had always been rather ‘anti-medicine’ and had never been to a doctor. This viewpoint reinforced her own reluctance to deal with her diagnosis. In addition, her husband had been a chain smoker and as a result Roswitha had been a ‘passive’ smoker for five decades.

In 2002 Roswitha became a member of a newly founded self-help group organized by the umbrella initiative ‘Aktion Gesunde Knochen’ (Healthy Bones Initiative). In the selfhelp group she learned about the dangers of osteoporosis and began sharing her experiences with other osteoporosis patients.

“I’d like to maintain my current quality of life as long as I can – to stay mobile and active. Exercise is important to me, whether it is bike riding, swimming, Nordic walking or dancing. I am conscious of what I eat and take my medication regularly,” she says. “My generation experienced food deprivation, but now we have the opposite,” says Roswitha. “Today there is too much. Too many unhealthy beverages and fast food, combined with lack of exercise.”

Roswitha firmly believes that those responsible for health care and the media should concentrate on raising awareness among children and teenagers. She volunteered to be a patient speaker at the May 2006 ‘Staying Power’ press conference, at which a new IOF report detailed the significant personal, social and economic costs associated with women not staying on their osteoporosis treatment.

This personal story was contributed to the World Osteoporosis Day campaign in 2006

Read more stories of people with osteoporosis.