Elderly care in UK under spotlight by charity report

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A survey mounted by the age-support charity WRVS has found that loneliness and isolation are major issues for UK pensioners.

In comparing the elderly with their equivalents in the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany, Britain came 3rd of the 4 countries. WRVS found that UK pensioners were most likely to feel isolated, had the lowest net income and believed themselves victims of age discrimination.

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The survey also determined that public expenditure on services for the elderly is only a partial solution, with greater volunteer initiatives delivering distinct benefits for Sweden and the Netherlands.

According to WRVS, improving older people's social lives will help their health and allow them to live longer in their own homes.

At Oxford's Bullingdon Community Centre, pensioners can attend each week an Age UK day centre, where they can socialise and enjoy eating together.

The centre's manager, Ella Thomas, said the project is a lifeline for many of their regulars. "It is a day centre or community club where they feel they receive a respite from being on their own," said Ms Thomas.

"I think loneliness can be a tremendous hazard in older people in terms of being able to get out of their own homes and feeling trapped."

Socialising with other elderly people can make an enormous difference to their quality of life. Other than once-weekly shopping trips, 87 year-old Edna Franklin was virtually housebound for 4 years. The pensioner now goes twice weekly to a WRVS day centre in Banbury and feels healthier for it.

"Everyone says I look a lot better since I've been going out," she said.

David McCullough, chief executive of the WRVS, said the charity report's findings reflect the sad facts behind growing old in modern Britain and should act as "a wake-up call".

"The treatment of older people in this country needs to be addressed and we must learn from our EU partners," said Mr McCullough. "They have proved that it is possible to tackle some of these issues by taking advantage of volunteers to provide older people with more social contact and better links to their communities.

"This in turn will have a knock on beneficial impact on their health."

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