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Tuesday, 17 October, 2000, 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK
Elderly 'feel trapped at home'
Elderly woman
Nine million people are over the age of 65 in the UK
Thousands of elderly people in the UK go from one week to the next without speaking to another person.

The findings of a survey suggest that more than a million are living in isolation and feel trapped in their homes.

And a further 630,000 older people feel as though nobody knows they exist.

The survey, of more than 2,500 people across the UK, found that these feelings were most prevalent in elderly people with low incomes or poor health - women more than men.

Help the Aged and British Gas, which commissioned the survey, said the findings showed the need for the government to boost incomes for elderly people.


This survey graphically illustrates the sheer scale of the terrible loneliness and isolation felt by many older people

Mervyn Kohler, Help the Aged

The survey suggests that more than 180,000 pensioners go for a whole week without speaking to friends, neighbours of family.

One-in-10 say they feel "acutely isolated" and one-in-eight say they feel trapped at home.

A quarter of those over the age of 75 say they are "more or less alone and socialise with very few people".

Elderly people with low incomes are twice as likely to feel trapped in their own homes compared with those with a higher income. They are also more likely to feel isolated.

One-in-seven elderly people with a limiting long-term illness say they have felt like no-one knows they exist. This compares to just 3% of those without a limiting illness.

The situation is worse for elderly women. They are twice as likely to feel trapped in their homes than men. Almost half say they sometimes feel lonely.

'Terrible loneliness'

Mervyn Kohler, from Help the Aged, said the findings showed the need for the government to address the problems of low incomes.

"This survey graphically illustrates the sheer scale of the terrible loneliness and isolation felt by many older people in Britain and shows that poverty and poor health play a key role," he said.

"Clearly the important challenge to the government is to address the problems of the low incomes and poor health.

"But the survey also shows the way forward on a broader agenda and the need both to listen to older people and act on the perception of their needs."

Charles Naylor of British Gas said the company was working with Help the Aged to help elderly people.

"While the Help the Aged British Gas partnership is calling for action at national policy level, we too have a role to play in finding solutions.

"Together we have already helped thousands of older people through practical support for local projects.

"Our future support will aim to relieve isolation and loneliness at a local level, helping the people identified through this groundbreaking research."

Professor Robert Worcester, chairman of Mori which carried out the survey, said: "It is important the government is aware of these issues if the crucial 'grey power' vote is going to support them at the next election."

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13 Oct 00 | Health
Elderly lives 'put at risk'
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