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Monday, 9 July, 2001, 08:55 GMT 09:55 UK
Many 'too optimistic about health'
Elderly man
Many elderly people have long standing illness
Many people mistakenly assume that they will be healthy in old age, a survey has found.

The research, by MORI, found that more than two-thirds of people expect to be fit and healthy in old age.

However, the statistics do not bear that optimistic view out.

the far from comforting truth is that many of us will have a debilitating illness in old age

Michael Lake
Data from the General Household Survey found that two-thirds of people over 75 had a long-standing illness, and half said they were prevented from leading a full and active life.

It is true that people are living longer. However, research from the Office for National Statistics shows that the proportion of life during which people can expect to be in poor health has increased.


The MORI survey of 1,979 adults showed that 68% expected to be fit and healthy and looked forward to enjoying an active and sociable old age.

But it also showed that support for medical research into illnesses which affected people in old age, such as arthritis, dementia and strokes, was not a priority.

Only 20% of respondents believing that more support should be given.

Research into cancer, heart disease and children's illnesses such as asthma and leukaemia were earmarked as more deserving of additional financial support.

A Help the Aged spokesman said: "This is not a case of sour grapes.

"We don't begrudge other charities getting funding for research but we want to raise the at present very low profile of research into ageing and old age conditions."

Caroline Bradley from Research into Ageing, which has merged with the charity to tackle ill health in old age and commissioned this latest survey, said: "It is good to see high expectations of a healthy old age but the reality will sadly be very different for too many of us.

"High quality scientific research can do a lot to reduce the likelihood of common conditions like osteoporosis, stroke and mobility, and funding more biomedical research now is vital to improve the quality of our later lives."

Help the Aged director general Michael Lake said: "While many people want to enjoy a full and active retirement, the far from comforting truth is that many of us will have a debilitating illness in old age.

"Poorer health means financial hardship and isolation for many older people.

"The importance of medical research in this area grows ever more pressing to improve our chances of a healthy and independent old age."

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See also:

17 Jun 01 | Health
Elderly women more alert than men
31 Jan 01 | Health
Elderly face 'medicines risk'
27 Mar 01 | Health
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