Page last updated at 00:56 GMT, Tuesday, 20 May 2008 01:56 UK

UK's over-65s 'sick with worry'

Elderly people
Help the Aged wants an end to ageism

One in four older people are so worried about their future that they are making themselves ill, a survey has suggested.

The ICM poll for Help the Aged showed a fifth of over-65s felt their quality of life had worsened in the last year and one in 10 said they were often lonely.

The study of Britain's elderly also highlighted ageism, neglect, poverty, isolation and deprivation.

The charity is calling for equal rights and for the government to remedy the long-term neglect of older people.

Paul Cann, director of policy and external relations at Help the Aged, said: "It's appalling that we live in a society where older people feel sick with worry about the future.

No heating

"The government must ease their concerns by banning the ageism that continually sinks its poison right into the heart of our society."

The poll conducted among 1,001 people over 65 also found:

  • A fifth (21%) of pensioners are surviving below the poverty line and 15% live in persistent poverty
  • 29% agree that health professionals tend to treat older people as a nuisance
  • More than half (53%) agree age discrimination is part of their everyday lives
  • Nearly a quarter (23%) avoid heating their bedroom, bathroom or living room due to financial worries

The poverty line is defined as 60% of the median household income. The median is the household in the middle of the income range. Persistent poverty is defined as being at this level in three years out of the four-year period under discussion.

The study, entitled Spotlight 2008, also suggested about 200,000 more pensioner households have been plunged into fuel poverty in the last 12 months. "Fuel poverty" is when a household spends more than 10% of its income on fuel.

It said the provision of low level social care - two hours or less a week at home - has dropped with 11% fewer households receiving care in England than in the previous year.

However, Mr Cann said, although the study painted a dismal picture, there have been some steps forward.

More people over 60 were taking up concessionary fares and the over-65s are now more likely to use the internet.

ICM interviewed a random sample of 1,001 adults aged 65 and over by telephone between January 3-8.

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