Thousands of elderly in care homes 'socially isolated'

Elderly women in care home The charity wants more volunteers to befriend elderly people living in homes

Related Stories

At least 40,000 elderly people in care homes in England are living in "social isolation", according to a survey.

Some 13,000 are completely "without kith or kin" and have no letters, calls or visits at all, says the Relatives and Residents Association (R&RA).

The charity's research, funded by the government, gathered results from 686 of the 10,000 homes in England.

The government said it was "determined to strengthen community action" to help isolated older people.


Judy Downey, chairwoman of the R&RA, said she found the situation "desperately sad".

"We're talking about people who, largely, have dementia," she told the BBC.

"They've lost so much already - they've lost their homes, their families, often their memory. No-one to help stimulate it or remind them of who they were or what they did. No-one who knows their history.

"Some people have never had families, some people have outlived them. Some people may well have families, but their children are on other continents and although they do care about them, they can't possibly be in touch with them."

Start Quote

Caring for older people is everybody's business”

End Quote Paul Burstow Care Services Minister

The R&RA said the two-year study did give an accurate reflection of the wider situation across England despite only 7% of care homes responding.

In fact, it said the estimate of 13,000 living in complete isolation was "conservative".

The charity also warned that these people were at risk of financial abuse or neglect.

It cited one case in which a care home resident's bungalow was bought by the manager for his son - something the charity said was "completely unethical".

Ms Downey said local authorities should take responsibility for finding out how many people in their areas were in this position, and then encourage the creation of "befriending" schemes to recruit volunteers to visit them.

Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said services "designed and delivered in silos" could intensify the isolation and loneliness that older people felt.

"The best care homes personalise the care and support that residents receive," he said. "By understanding their personal history and listening to them, care homes can transform people's lives.

"Caring for older people is everybody's business. That is why the government is determined to strengthen community action. Citizen-led advocacy and community-based befriending services can make a big difference."

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More UK stories


Features & Analysis

  • Martin Gardner as a young manThink hard

    Was this man the world's greatest puzzle master?

  • Carved pumpkinTrick or treat

    What did a riot at a pumpkin festival show about race in US?

  • A woman puts on a surgical mask during hospital Ebola training in Alabama.'Dark continent'

    Is prejudice fuelling Ebola outbreak hysteria in the US?

  • Oscar de la Renta and Oprah WinfreyIn pictures

    The life and work of Oscar de la Renta

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • FutureThe future is now

    Get the latest updates and biggest ideas from BBC Future’s World-Changing Ideas Summit


  • Smart glassesClick Watch

    Smart spectacles go into battle – the prototypes looking to take on Google Glass

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.