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Tuesday, 03 January 2017

Social exclusion study finds many over-80s increasingly isolated

Written by The Press Association

The oldest people in society are suffering due to social exclusion, with many struggling to get to the shops or doctors, according to new research.

Those over 85 are much more likely to be shut out than those aged 65 to 84, the new study from social policy researchers at the University of Lincoln and Sheffield Hallam University found.

The team studied more than 10,000 people over the age of 65 and found that 16% of over-85s reported significant problems accessing services such as healthcare and food shops.

This compared with just 4% of those in the younger age group.

Meanwhile, almost half of those aged 85 and over never went out socially, compared with 17% of those aged 65 to 84. This was true even for those who still had a partner alive, suggesting elderly couples are also at risk of social exclusion.

Women were less likely to be able to access services than men, the study found.

Office for National Statistics figures suggest there will be 3.2 million people aged 85 or over in the UK by 2039.

Dr Wesley Key, from the University of Lincoln's School of Social and Political Sciences, said: "As people in Western nations are living longer, it is now necessary to differentiate the 'oldest old' from what could be termed the 'younger old', or those aged 65 to 84.

"Our analysis found that these people are at greater risk of experiencing social exclusion compared with the 65 to 84 age group.

"We examined whether this risk was down to declining health among this age group, yet the analysis shows that those aged 85 and above are still at greater risk of social exclusion even if we take poor health into account.

"We know that a loss of social contact can damage physical and mental health, and furthermore, older people are more likely to need care from external providers if they live alone, something which is more likely among the oldest old. This places more pressure on statutory health and social care services.

"Measures must be taken to help them continue living in their own homes for as long as possible, whilst maintaining adequate social relations and being able to access services.

"As first steps, awareness and availability of technology such as Skype, telecare and online banking and shopping should be improved."

The study was published in the journal Social Policy and Society.

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