More than half of elderly over 75 now live alone

Many of those who contact the charity Contact the Elderly feel isolated and vulnerable. Credit: Press Assocation

For the young, the rise in the numbers choosing to live alone may be a sign of empowerment, but for the elderly it can often be a sign of their diminishing value to society.

More than half of the elderly (aged over 75) now live alone. A rise of 10% in 40 years.

Few do so by choice and many report acute loneliness.

Keith Arscott, the director of the charity Contact the Elderly told me that many of those who contact him feel isolated and vulnerable.

While people are aware of the emotional problems of loneliness, the charity warns few recognise the potential physical damage as well.

Mr Arscott said loneliness can lead to depression:

A tenth of elderly people see their friends or families less than once a month and that lack of social interaction can make old people more vulnerable to depression and to problems such as excessive drinking, poor diet and ill health.

Maud, 88, has lived on her estate for more than 74 years but now hardly knows a soul. For her the charity is a lifeline, around which her social life revolves.

She has this message for the rising numbers of the young who celebrate living alone as one in ten of all 25 to 44-year-olds do now:

Reflecting that living alone through choice may be wonderful sometimes, Maud remembers a world is full of work, family and friends.

But at nearly 80 there are not many of the people she grew up with or worked with left.