An overhaul in social care with more state-funded support for the most vulnerable is needed, a survey says.
Some people are having to go without care
Social care is effectively means-tested in the UK apart from Scotland where personal care is provided free.
But a poll of 2,306 found most people were against the current arrangements, although many accepted some individual contribution may be needed.
The Caring Choices, a coalition of charities, said a debate was needed on social care and the ageing population.
Speaking on Radio 4's You and Yours programme, Care Services Minister Ivan Lewis said the government were trying to free up more money to put into social care.
The proportion of people over 65 is growing - over the next 20 years projections indicate it will rise by over 50%.
That means there will be more demand on social services, but less taxpayers per pensioner to fund it.
Currently, anyone with assets of more than £20,500 has to pay for social care, although if the care is linked to health treatment it is supposed to be provided free.
Councils have also begun to restrict the amount of care they provide with many local authorities withdrawing basic home care. Services such as help with dressing have been reduced, as councils struggle with finances.
This has been the source of much criticism recently as many elderly people are increasingly relying on family and friends for help or going without.
There is also a long-running controversy over the fact some elderly people are forced to sell their homes when they go into care homes.
The poll illustrates the dissatisfaction with the system with 68% saying social care should be provided on the basis of need.
This compared to 23% who felt it was fair to be judged on a person's income or assets.
However, nearly half acknowledged they were likely to have to contribute some of their savings towards social care in the future.
Gordon Lishman, director general of Age Concern, said: "The gap between reality and expectation in social care is colossal."
And Niall Dickson, chief executive of the King's Fund health-think tank, another member of the coalition, added: "It is clear that the current long-term care system is too complex.
"What we need now is a debate about roles, responsibilities and risks - and the trade-offs we are prepared to make as individuals and as a society."
Rose Hacker, who is 101 and lives in a care home in London, said: "I'm seeing disaster ahead.
"Who is going to do the work? Where is the money coming from? How is society going to cope?"
Mr Lewis accepted change was needed.
He said the government was trying to free up money by moving care away from hospitals - where it is expensive - and into the community.
But he added there should be a debate about how we cope with the projected increase in the elderly population.
"We need to redefine the relationship between the state, the family and the citizen," he said.
A special feature, The Future Of Social Care, will be on You And Yours on BBC Radio 4 at 12 noon on Monday.