Skip to content
Please donate

Most think older people aren't treated with dignity

Published on 24 April 2013 11:01 PM

New polling by Age UK shows that only a quarter of the public (26%) feel confident that older people are treated with dignity at home or in care homes while less than 1 in 3 (31%) felt older people were treated with dignity while in hospital.


A majority of people (56%) thought that the Government treats older people badly - and two thirds of those (66%) cited poor standards of care as the reason.

These shockings results are revealed on the day of Age UK's For Later Life Conference on Thursday 25 April, demonstrating the need for a more compassionate and intelligent approach to caring for our growing older population.

A conference to discuss better health and care in tough times

Today's For Later Life conference will be discussing how to achieve ‘Better Health and Care in tough times'. Speakers at the Age UK event include:

  • Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt;
  • Neil Churchill, newly appointed Director of Patient Experience at NHS England;
  • Dame Julie Mellor, Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman; and
  • Dianne Jeffrey, co-Chairman of the Dignity in Care Commission.

Older people are missing out on simple medical services

Alongside the shocking findings of the low levels of confidence in the dignified care of older people in England today, the report also highlights wider concerns with the way older people are treated for common conditions.

Age UK's recent work with the Exeter Medical School clearly shows that older people are missing out on simple services and support that could significantly improve their quality of life:

  • Around 40% of older people suffer from uncontrolled or untreated hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • 80% of people over 75 with diabetes have not received self- management training and 20% have not had routine foot care
  • 70% of people over 65 are not supported to prevent arthritis getting worse

Since the NHS was established in 1948 our society and our health and care needs have fundamentally changed. Life expectancy at birth alone has increased by 12 years in that time. The majority of people using the NHS today are over 60 and many are living with multiple long-term or chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and dementia.

Care of older people must fundamentally change

Age UK believes that care of older people must fundamentally change to match up to these new realities:

  • The NHS urgently needs to commission services that are geared towards preventing poor health, promoting better management of long term conditions.
  • As a society we must address the crisis in care by investing in the care and support services people urgently need to maintain their health and wellbeing.
  • We must tackle inequalities in older people's access to services, treatment and care. Ageism and outdated assumptions about age should have no place in modern services. 
  • We must make sure that every older person can be confident they will always be treated with dignity and respect wherever they are being cared for.

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General of Age UK said, 'Our society has changed out of all recognition since the NHS was set up 65 years ago and while the founding principles of the NHS remain as important as ever, we can't stand still. 

'Today we are living longer than ever before, something that is a cause for huge celebration. But we should not forget this means we are facing different challenges to those of the past. It is vital our NHS and social care system is looking ahead and preparing to meet the needs of today's and tomorrow's generations.

'It is shocking that only a minority of people believe that older people will be treated with dignity when they need care. Looking ahead to later life can be daunting, both for individuals and their families but that feeling can easily become fear if people do not have confidence that they will receive compassionate and dignified care when they most need it.

'We need holistic care'

Ms Mitchell continued: 'As we age we are more likely to live with a number of different conditions and become more frail. We need holistic care that can take account of all our needs and help promote health and wellbeing. Instead we too often see older people end up in hospital or losing their independence when services fail to connect and provide the right support at the right time. This is not only deeply distressing for the older person and their family, but means that the NHS is put under further stress.

'However there can never be an excuse for treating older people with anything less than dignity and respect in all aspects of their care. We need to see a cultural change in the NHS which demands that empathy and compassion lie at the heart of every decision at every level.

'Age UK is calling on the Government to urgently deliver an action plan for change  enabling everyone in later life to live as healthy and fulfilling lives as possible.'

Share this page

Last updated: Dec 05 2018

Become part of our story

Sign up today

Back to top