Life getting worse for third of older people, report finds

Almost one in three older people say their lives have got worse in the last year, according to a Help the Aged report out yesterday.

The charity’s annual “spotlight” on the experiences of older people in the UK in 2007 finds 13% are “often or always lonely”, up from 8% last year.

Although persistent poverty among pensioners fell slightly, one-fifth live in poverty and almost half are still not taking up their entitlement to council tax benefit.

Older people living in poverty spent an average of just £21.90 a week on food and £5.20 a week on clothing in 2005-6.

More than one in five people aged over 65 need a regular escort to leave the house but do not have one, and almost one in 10 need help with everyday jobs but do not receive it, the report says. And the number of households receiving low-level care fell by 4,000 to 81,535 given the longstanding trend for councils to concentrate support on those with fewer, more complex needs.

Help the Aged has called for a clear commitment to ending pensioner poverty, including targets, and a new government strategy of paying benefits automatically to older people on the basis of information it already holds on them.

It also called on public bodies to face a duty to promote age equality in the same way they are required to promote race, disability and gender equality.

The charity’s director of policy, Paul Cann, said: “If steps are not taken to enable people to carry on working and saving, to improve public health, and to ensure that adequate social care is available for those who need it, growing numbers of people will be blighted by disadvantage in older age.”

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 Simeon Brody

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