Hunt: 'Chronically lonely' ignored

A "forgotten million" elderly people are "chronically lonely" as the result of being ignored by society, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.

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Hunt: We have 'utterly failed' to address loneliness

England should be ashamed of how it treats its elderly, the Health Secretary said in a speech today.

It is a "national shame" that there are 800,000 elderly people in society who are chronically lonely, Jeremy Hunt said.

"We know there is a broader problem of loneliness that in our busy lives we have utterly failed to confront as a society," he said.

"Forty-six percent of people aged 80 or over report feeling lonely some of the time or often. Some five million people say television is their main form of company - that's 10% of the population.

"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."

Labour: Care system pushed to the brink of collapse

Liz Kendall turned Jeremy Hunt's "national shame" line back on the Health Secretary. Credit: PA

Labour health spokeswoman Liz Kendall said: "The real national shame is Jeremy Hunt's attempt to shift the blame for dealing with the very real problems of loneliness amongst elderly people on to families alone.

"He seems completely unaware that there are over six million unpaid family carers in Britain today, one in five of whom provide more than 50 hours care a week for their loved ones.

"These unsung heroes save the taxpayer billions of pounds yet often get precious little support in return.

"Families, friends and neighbours need a decent care system to back up their efforts to look after elderly people, but the reality is our care system is in crisis and has been pushed to the brink of collapse."

Psychologist: 'This is not the life we look forward to'

Loneliness is thought to increase the risk of diabetes. Credit: PA

Psychologist Lynda Shaw warned that loneliness can also exacerbate diseases like diabetes, dementia and some cancers.

“There is a real problem in the UK of elder adults feeling alone and uncared for by families, carers and society – a generation that is being abandoned," she said.

“Loneliness and isolation do not only lead to feelings of low self-worth but have been shown to be a major risk factor in exacerbating and accelerating the decline of diabetes, dementia, heart disease and even some cancers.

“This is not the life that we want to look forward to and we have to take action now to make sure we are improving the lives of our loved ones."

Lynda Shaw is a director of LifeBook UK, a service allowing elder adults to create their own autobiography.

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Elderly people 'can be independent with proper help'

Retired people need some community facilities in order to keep their independence, a campaigner for the rights of the elderly has told Daybreak.

Kate Jopling, director for the Campaign to End Loneliness said Government cuts were trapping capable elderly people in their homes.

She admitted she was already disillusioned with health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who will be giving a speech on the UK's neglected elderly later today.

"I am fed with all of them. They're talking about cutting pensioner's Universal Benefit, and they are saying that because we are taking stuff away from younger people. My God we've all got grandchildren! They've all got debts!"

'Seismic shift' needed in attitudes towards elderly

A seismic shift is needed in attitudes towards older people and ageing in this country.

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.

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.

– Age UK's charity director, Caroline Abrahams

Hunt: Forgotten million 'ignored to our national shame'

The Health Secretary will highlight the plight of the "forgotten million" who are said to be isolated or lonely.

The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will highlight the "national shame" of as many as 800,000 people in England who are "chronically lonely" in a speech later today.

He will tell the National Children and Adults Services: "Some five million people say television is their main form of company - that's 10% of the population.

"We know there is a broader problem of loneliness that in our busy lives we have utterly failed to confront as a society.

"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."

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