Older people in Britain spend equivalent of over 100 days alone each year

News posted

12th March 2013

Yesterday’s launch in Parliament of the Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO) coincided with the release of new data on the extent of the loneliness epidemic in the UK, highlighting the need for a new approach to housing and care for older people. 
Results from a survey, conducted exclusively for ARCO, suggested that more than 66 million hours are spent alone by people aged over 65  each day, equivalent to each person over 65 spending over 100 days alone each year . Studies have dubbed loneliness a ‘hidden killer’ which can increase the risks of death amongst older people by 10 per cent . 
The Opinium Research survey of 1,030 people aged over 65 also comes as a major House of Lords Select Committee inquiry is conducted into how Government should respond to an ageing society. 
The survey findings include: 
  • A quarter of respondents feel lonely some or most of the time (24 per cent) 
  • Almost one in five (18 per cent) of over 75s sometimes go a full weekend without seeing and speaking to another person
  • Over half of respondents (54 per cent) feel unable to talk about this loneliness with their family; or their children (46 per cent)
  • London is the loneliest place to grow old (average of 7.8 hours on their own in a typical day) 
The survey also lays bare the myth that a primary concern for older people is staying in their own home; a common misconception in Westminster and Whitehall. When asked what worried them most about getting older, poor health (32 per cent) came out top, while having to leave the family home most concerned just four per cent of respondents.
Despite being worried about their health declining with age and being forced to move into a care home, people appear unprepared for older age. Almost three quarters (72 per cent) of respondents have not made any changes to the way they live, or made any preparations for their changing housing needs. 
ARCO Chairman, and chief executive of Retirement Villages Ltd, Jon Gooding, said:
“We are in the grip of a loneliness epidemic; people are fearful of their declining health; and yet appear to be unprepared for old age. Couple this with the fact that in 2033 there will be 3.3 million people over the age of 85 in the UK and it becomes clear that we face a momentous challenge. The emergence of this brand new generation, who want more and expect more from their retirement, calls for a entirely different approach to housing and care.  
“Today’s survey shows that whilst people have legitimate concerns about getting older, they are not so worried about being able to stay in the family home. We know that the decision to ‘stay put’ is often associated with a complete lack of choice. We need to wake up as a country and ensure that people are aware of, and have access to, a variety of options for high quality housing, care and support in old age.”
Key findings
  • Average hours spend alone by over 65s on a typical day = 6.4 hours
  • Percentage of over 65s who spend 20 hours on their own on a typical day (16-20 hours) = 10 per cent
  • Percentage of over 65s who spend the entire waking day on their own on a typical day (11-20 hours) = 21 per cent