Volunteers will have to step in to help neglected elderly people because the state and modern families are unable to cope, a minister has said.
In an age when many older British people are rarely visited by their relatives and live lonely lives "the state can't do it on its own," Norman Lamb, the care and support minister told the Financial Times (£).
He said there was "an overwhelming case" for volunteers to fill the gap left by "the dispersal of the extended family" and called for "a 21st century version of Neighbourhood Watch" to combat isolation.
He insisted he did not see the involvement of volunteers as a cost-cutting option.
ITV News readers have responded to calls for the government to tackle loneliness with internet training, with many welcoming the suggestion but others insisting the net is no substitute for contact with people.
I use it every day but it [doesn't] fill the gap like human company I'm afraid.
Taught my 74 year old grandad how to use skype and he loves being about to speak to his brother and sister and great grandkids
Yes it would [help] but alot of elderly can't even afford heating and food, let alone a new PC and internet
The chronic loneliness some elderly people suffer from can only be relieved by relationships, so if the internet is to help it has "link people to people", Esther Rantzen told Good Morning Britain.
The former TV presenter, who set up a helpline to combat loneliness in the elderly, believed teaching OAPs how to use the internet could help, but warned many felt out of their depth with the technology.
"A lot of the generation that Silver Line works with...are not comfortable with the internet. It frightens them. They think it is a whole new set of skills they have to learn."
The dominance of the internet means it is "vital" everyone has access to the web, the author of a report into loneliness in the elderly has said.
Eddie Copeland, report author for think-tank Policy Exchange, said:
In an increasingly isolated and fast moving world it is vital that everyone in society is able to use the internet and understand its benefits.
From alleviating social isolation, bringing together communities, paying bills and now accessing public services, online can improve lives.
Being able to simply write an email or access a social networking site could provide older people with a way to stay connected to their friends and families, who may live hundreds of miles away.
The number of lonely elderly people can be brought down if they are given proper internet training by the Government, a think tank has said.
Policy Exchange said four out of 10 people aged over 65 did not have internet access at home, but training them how to use software like Skype or instant messenger would only cost £141 per person.
The overall cost of education OAPs in how to use the internet, 6.2 million, would be offset by the "huge" economic and social benefits for the UK, the think-tank said.
Tackling isolation could prove to be one of the most effective strategies for countering the rising costs of caring for an ageing population, the think-tank said.
The initial investment in training would be offset by savings of around £1.7 billion a year as people moved to digital rather than paper-based and telephone transactions, it added.
- Domestic violence among elderly couples was brought into focus by the death of 81-year-old Mary Russell in 2010.
- Mary died of a bleed to the brain following a "domestic related" incident but is believed to have suffered abuse for some time.
- Mrs Russell, of Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, made eight 999 calls in the seven months before she died.
- She first reported violence to police in 2003, when she was found standing on her doorstep with blood pouring from her nose by a neighbour.
- Her husband, Albert Russell, was arrested after his wife's death but it was decided that there was not enough evidence to prosecute the 88-year-old, who has since died.
- A serious case review found police were failing to deal with the hidden problem of domestic violence among elderly couples.
Elderly domestic abuse victims are at danger of more frequent and intense bouts of violence, according to fresh guidelines from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
New draft guidance from the CPS warned the stress of caring for an ill partner in later life could also lead to increased domestic violence.
The situation was often exacerbated by mental and physical frailty and isolation brought on by old age.
Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said: "We know from research conducted by others that there is very little evidence that partner violence decreases with age, and it is important we also recognise the factors that may contribute to and impact upon domestic abuse between older people."
Malnutrition afflicts 70 per cent of older people living at home and is estimated to affect about 45 per cent of Alzheimer sufferers.
Age UK estimates that 1.3 million people over 65 suffer from malnutrition, with the vast majority of those - 93 per cent - living in the community.
Almost 10 per cent of older people living at home are affected by malnutrition, 30 per cent living in care homes and 70 per cent of older people in hospital, according to a report from Alzheimer's Disease International and the Compass Group.
"Consequences include frailty, reduced mobility, skin fragility, an increased risk of falls and fractures, exacerbation of health conditions and increased mortality," said the report.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that too many elderly people were ending up in hospital because of the flawed GP contracts introduced by the Labour government.
Mr Hunt told the Daily Telegraph: “Labour’s disastrous 2004 GP contract left many vulnerable elderly patients without good out-of-hours care, so it’s rank hypocrisy for them now to complain about the consequences of their historic mistake.
"We have ripped up that contract and are bringing back proper family doctoring, with named GPs for older people to help relieve A&E pressures.”
He added that they allowed family doctors to abandon responsibility for out-of-hours care.
Age UK has said that some of those admitted to hospital is a consequence of "not getting good quality care at home".
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: "It is important that older people receive the treatment and care they need and sometimes this means going to hospital.
"However we know that in some cases being admitted to hospital is the consequence of not getting good quality care at home."
Access to high quality social care is increasingly difficult as many vital services are withdrawn or reduced as a result of the current crisis in care.
"The core of the problem is that funding for social care has failed and is still failing to keep up with growing demand. Legislative reform is vital but pointless unless sufficient funding is in place."