Page last updated at 02:15 GMT, Thursday, 17 July 2008 03:15 UK

Councils 'unprepared' for elderly

Older person wearing music earphones
Councils need to deal with more than just social care, the report warns

Many English councils are not ready to deal with the impact of a rapidly ageing population, a watchdog has said.

The Audit Commission found 27% of town halls failed to have a strategy other than for social care and almost half were only starting to develop ideas.

Inquiries to councils from older people about leisure and other activities were often referred to social services when there was no need, the commission said.

The Local Government Association said it was a priority for many councils.

The commission said about 40% of the population will be over 50 in 20 years' time, although many of them will not need care.

Ex-punk rockers and Rolling Stones fans are not going to be happy with a cup of tea and daytime TV
Michael O'Higgins
Audit Commission

Commission chairman Michael O'Higgins said: "These are active people, anxious to stay independent as long as possible.

"Despite the stereotypes, only 3% of people aged between 65 and 80 live in residential care.

"But it's worrying that the councils in areas with the most over-50s are the least prepared to cope with their long-term needs and interests."

He added: "Ex-punk rockers and Rolling Stones fans are not going to be happy with a cup of tea and daytime TV."

'Woefully unprepared'

The report said councils needed to think more about helping older people stay well and independent.

Examples included a council-funded community radio station for older people in rural Cornwall.

A scheme in Dudley in the West Midlands to prevent falls has saved millions of pounds in hip operations and other costly treatment.

David Rogers, chairman of the Local Government Association's community wellbeing board, said councils have been highlighting the problems of an ageing population.

He said: "Town halls have long been warning that the massive pressure of an ageing population will leave the nation woefully unprepared for giving elderly people care they expect and deserve as well as ensuring that they are able to access vital local services."

Mr Rogers added: "Many councils have already agreed with the government that addressing the needs of an ageing population is among their highest priorities."

Help the Aged regional policy manager Belinda Wadsworth said older people often felt "ignored and let down" by local authorities.

"It's a real worry that in an increasingly ageing society, many local councils are struggling when it comes to catering for the needs of older people in their area," she said.

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