‘National shame’ of forgotten older people
Published on 18 October 2013 12:00 PM
Jeremy Hunt is to call on families to look at how they treat older people, especially their loved ones.
In a speech to delegates at the National Children and Adults Services (NCAS) conference, the health secretary will claim that entering old age 'should not involve waving goodbye to one's dignity.'
He will also speak of a collective 'national shame' in ignoring the emotional needs of individuals in care homes or those isolated in their own homes.
There are currently around 800,000 people in England who are chronically lonely, according to the Campaign to End Loneliness.
'A seismic shift is needed in attitudes towards older people'
A further five million, meanwhile, claim television is their main form of company.
'We know there is a broader problem of loneliness that in our busy lives we have utterly failed to confront as a society,' Mr Hunt will say.
'Each and every lonely person has someone who could visit them and offer companionship. A forgotten million who live amongst us - ignored to our national shame.'
Age UK's charity director, Caroline Abrahams, claims lonely older people need to be offered more support, both from their families and the government.
'A seismic shift is needed in attitudes towards older people and ageing in this country,' she said.
'As we get older, we are more likely to suffer illness and disability which can prevent us from getting out and about, and people's social networks often shrink due to life-changing events such as retirement and bereavement, which can increase the risk of becoming lonely.
Around 800,000 people in England 'chronically lonely'
'At Age UK, we are extremely concerned that cuts to local authority budgets are exacerbating the problem of loneliness because they are causing the closure of many support services for older people, like lunch clubs, which can be a lifeline for those on their own.
'These cuts are also pushing to breaking point many families who are trying to care for their older relatives in the absence of adequate support. Caring is often a 24/7 role that can have a huge physical and emotional impact on the carer.'
Mr Hunt will also tell delegates that 112,000 cases of alleged abuse were referred by English councils in 2012/13, the majority of which involved people aged 65 and over.
'Something is badly wrong in a society where potentially 1,000 such instances are happening every single week,' he will declare.
Copyright Press Association 2013