Rising levels of family breakdown are leaving increasing numbers of pensioners without children or spouses to care for them as they grow older, a report has warned.
The report by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) – a think-tank founded by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith – said the collapse of families was having a “ripple effect” throughout society which was now hitting the elderly.
With Britain already facing a “looming crisis” in social care provision, the CSJ said that many more pensioners faced a life of suffering and poverty unless radical solutions were found.
The report points out that the number of older people in the UK in need of care and support is expected to increase by 1.7 million over the next 20 years while the numbers with dementia could double by 2040.
At the same time high rates of divorce and the collapse of long-standing relationships of couples living together, were weakening the bonds between pensioners and their adult children.
As a result, fewer children were able or willing to care for their ageing parents with simple everyday tasks such as washing, dressing, cooking and shopping.
The immediate impact, the report said, has been a sharp rise in the burden on the estimated six million unpaid carers who do look after a family member, with more than a fifth now providing 50 hours or more care a week.
“Though the effects of family breakdown are only just beginning to be understood, its impact on care for the older people is a reality (we) have not been able to ignore,” the report said.
Michelle Mitchell, charity director of Age UK, said: “People are becoming increasingly isolated in later life for diverse reasons, including bereavement, ill-health and a poor physical environment.
“With changing demographics and family patterns, we estimate that the number of people aged 75-plus living alone will increase by over 40% over the next 20 years.”