The Challenges of Rural Living For Older People
Published on 22 July 2013 08:00 AM
Rural Living - a Challenge For Many of England's Older People.
A new Age UK poll finds that nearly one in four people aged 60 and over who live in rural parts of England say lack of public transport is the biggest challenge they face living in the countryside.[i]
The polling coincides with the launch of Age UK's report Later Life In Rural England. The report, published at the start of National Countryside Week, finds that aspects of living in the countryside present serious obstacles for many older people. These include cuts to local bus services, a lack of nearby shops and services, high cost of heating and living, lack of access to health and social care and difficulties getting broadband.
Rural communities are ageing faster than other parts of the UK with approximately half of the rural population aged over 45, compared with 36 per cent in major urban areas.[ii]
Across rural England, the number of people aged over 65 with social care needs is projected to increase by 70 per cent over the next 16 years.[iii]
The number of cases of depression, stroke, falls and dementia is also projected to grow between 50 and 60 per cent, compared with up to 42 per cent in urban areas .[iv]
Age UK estimates that 1.5 million older people in rural areas are reliant on oil to heat their homes[v] which frequently costs more than electricity and gas and can only be bought in large quantities, resulting in sizeable upfront costs.
In addition studies have found that prices in rural areas are typically 10-20 per cent higher than in urban areas.[vi]
Age UK is calling on the Government and local authorities to ensure that the needs and interests of older people are taken into account when rural policies and programmes are designed and delivered. Decisions to the future of rural services should not be based simply on cost and the number of people using services. Local authorities must always assess the impact that cutting a service would have on older people.
In particular, Age UK is calling for the prevention of loneliness to be made a priority, which has been shown to be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day[vii].
Age UK is also calling for rural communities to be actively involved in planning services and shaping local decisions.
Michelle Mitchell, Age UK's Charity Director General, said
"Life in rural England is very tough for many people. Too many are stranded at home, lonely and isolated, struggling to the shops, Post Office and even hospital, because of a lack of local bus services.
"The high cost of heating because so many rural homes are badly insulated and are off the mains gas grid as well as the challenge of getting adequate social care all add up to make life in the countryside difficult for many and far from the stereotype of a rural paradise.
"With rural communities ageing rapidly, it's more critical than ever that the Government and local authorities make sure that the older people who live there, many of them frail and vulnerable, have access to the services and facilities they need to live as independent and fulfilling lives as possible.
The Prince's Countryside Fund which supports people who live and work in rural areas is backing Age UK's new report. Director Victoria Harris said,
"We know that rural isolation and lack of services are a real problem across the UK with post offices, village shops and pubs closing at an alarming rate. These closures tend to hit groups such as the elderly particularly hard and combined with the decline of local transport it is a major issue. This report highlights some of the major concerns facing the UK countryside today and we welcome any opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of protecting our rural communities."
For a copy of the report and case studies, please contact Age UK's press office.
Notes to editors
For media enquiries relating to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland please contact the appropriate national office: Age Scotland on 0131 668 8055, Age Cymru on 029 2043 1562 and Age NI on 028 9024 5729.
About Age UK: Age UK is the new force combining Age Concern and Help the Aged, dedicated to improving later life.
We provide free information, advice and support to over six million people; commercial products and services to well over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle. We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI (together the Age UK Family), our local Age UK partners in England and local Age Concerns. We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.
Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we"). Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).
[i] TNS poll commissioned by Age UK (2013)
[ii] Defra 2013
[iii] Cabinet Office Working together for older people in rural areas 2009
[v] Estimate based on statistics from Calor's report ‘Future of Rural Energy England Year 1 Report' (June 2011) http://www.calor.co.uk/documents/151/original/Calor-FREE-Year-1-England-Report.pdf
[vi] Joseph Rowntree Foundation "A minimum income standard for rural households 2010
[vii] Loneliness - The state we're in' Bolton, M., Age UK Oxfordshire (2012)