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Monday, 13 December, 1999, 15:59 GMT
Neglect of elderly who die alone

elderly lady Elderly people 'don't need to be alone'


The bodies of thousands of pensioners are not being discovered for weeks and months after their deaths, a report has found.

The Big Issue magazine contacted 30 coroners courts across the country and discovered what it called "horrific stories of neglect".

At least two decomposing bodies are discovered in London each week, the magazine, which is sold by homeless people, said.

In other cities, coroners reported dealing with up to 10 cases a month where the bodies of people with no friends or family had remained undiscovered for some time.


elderly lady reading a newspaper 'Offer to collect prescriptions, or a newspaper' says Age Concern
In one case in north London - the city where the tragedy of late discovery of the bodies of elderly people is at its worst - the body of a man was found approximately a year after he died.

Simon Smith, of St Pancras coroners court, told the magazine: "We could tell by the dates on his mail. We had to bring him out with the carpet - they had merged into one.

"At least once a week we get one that's been dead for three months or longer."

Dr Gary Kitchen, of the National Pensioners Convention, said: "The fact that pensioners can die alone, undiscovered for long periods is shocking.

"Something is wrong with out attitudes to the elderly. Growing old for many has become burdensome when it should be seen as a positive achievement and celebrated."



Growing old for many has become burdensome when it should be seen as a positive achievement and celebrated.
Dr Gary Kitchen, Nationla Pensioners Convention
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said that many old people guarded their independence and couldn't be forced to be helped.

She said: "We can't force help on people. But there are fail-safes and if people are in difficulty this is usually picked up by their own carers or by the caring authorities."

Age Concern stressed that the Big Issues's research had been qualitative rather than quantitative.

But spokeswoman Rhian Beynon said that the communities should be encouraged to take an interest in the well being of their elderly neighbours.

And she said that elderly people themselves should not hold back from contacting the many agencies that exist to help them.


Send a Christmas card to your elderly neighbours, with your name, address and telephone number on it, so that they can contact you if they want
Rhian Beynon, Age Concern


She said: "Now is a good time of year to send a Christmas card to your elderly neighbours, with your name, address and telephone number on it, so that they can contact you if they want.

"At this time of year particularly, elderly people do become more isolated because the weather is colder and the nights are longer. If neighbours offer to pick up prescriptions or a newspaper, that can really help someone out.

"Elderly people themselves, if they have a phone, can call their nearest branch of Age Concern and find out about befriending schemes and luncheon clubs. There is no need to be alone, and our branches are always delighted to listen and to help."

Age Concern's national helpline is free to call, and can be used to find details of local branches, as well as winter health and energy conservation advice. The number is 0800 009966.

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See also:
07 Dec 99 |  UK
Ageism should be 'top priority'
02 Dec 99 |  Health
Thousands of OAPs charged 'illegally'

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