Hundreds of thousands of elderly people in Britain are struggling to cope with loneliness and are not having their care need met, a charity has warned.
Age UK said there were more than a million older people who needed care but did not receive it from any source – be it family, friends, neighbours, or their local council.
The charity estimated that 300,000 of these people were also struggling to cope with loneliness much of the time.
Those who received some sort of care or support were much less likely to be lonely, the charity said. Research has shown that loneliness not only has an adverse affect on quality of life, it can also make people more susceptible to illness.
Age UK is calling for more action from the government to tackle loneliness among older people and for it to restore the “crumbling” social care system and fund more local support for lonely elderly people.
The charity also called on the public to find time to speak to an elderly neighbour or to volunteer with an organisation that helped the elderly.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “It’s bad enough to be struggling because of a care need and going without any support, but now it turns out that an appreciable number of older people in this position are facing a double whammy because they are chronically lonely too.
“We think it is likely that many of these older people are living on their own and in quite isolating circumstances, unable to call on family, friends or neighbours for help if they need it.
“Frankly, this is no way to spend your days.
“The overriding purpose of social care is to meet a person’s social care needs but, of course, for an older person who can’t get out and about, a friendly chat – however brief – with a visiting care worker is extraordinarily precious if it’s the only conversation you’ll have all day.
“Our social care system is in decline and failing to keep pace with our growing older population, leading to more older people with care needs going without formal help. Now, we can see from our analysis that this is adding to the problem of acute loneliness among older people too.”
The Department of Health said it was providing funding to schemes but also echoed the charity’s call for members of the public to help support and befriend people in need.