Urgent action is needed to prevent isolation among older people reaching 'epidemic proportions' by 2030.
The warning in a new report by Independent Age and the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC UK) comes amid concerns about how Britain will cope with its ageing population in the coming years.
Loneliness and isolation has become a 'serious issue' nationwide, according to the organisations, with a significant proportion of the older generation relying on the television for their only source of company.
The document sets out the worst and best case scenarios over the course of the next 16 years.
'We must use the next parliament to make tough policy choices'
In the best case, by 2030, experts will recognise loneliness as a public health problem, with officials promoting services and programmes to counter it. But in the worst case scenario 'isolation reaches epidemic proportions'. The authors are therefore calling for action on the issue before it is too late.
'We must use the next parliament to make tough policy choices and prepare for a shift in our population the like of which we have never seen,' said Janet Morrison, chief executive of Independent Age.
'If we duck these choices, we believe we will slide backwards, with greater numbers of poorer older people, living in increasingly inappropriate housing, lonely and in ill health.'
We need a better response to the challenges of ageing
The report suggests that isolation among older people could be fuelled by health problems. By 2030, for instance, it claims there could be a generation afflicted with obesity and long-term health conditions because of current poor diets, sedentary lifestyles and alcohol.
It also points out financial inequalities may play a part with regard to the loneliness of older people in the years to come.
David Sinclair, assistant director of policy and communications at the ILC UK, wants to see changes made as soon as possible.
'If we don't better respond to the challenges we see today, we won't be able to make the most of the opportunities of an ageing society tomorrow,' he commented.
'This report highlights the window of opportunity for policymakers. It paints an alternative picture of our society in 2030 respecting, valuing and maximising the contribution of older people. We can't put off preparing for ageing any longer.'
Copyright Press Association 2014