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We all need someone to turn to in later life


Caroline Abrahams

Charity Director, Age UK

People often say no one teaches us to be parents and this is equally true when it comes to getting older.

The ups and downs of being an older person are discussed a lot less often than those of becoming a mum or dad. It really can feel like travelling a new path once you reach later life.  

Of course, we still keep being ourselves but, for most people, later life also brings important changes; some welcome, others less so. We are all individuals too, so what gladdens the heart for some of us may deeply depress others. I am thinking of things like stopping paid work: if you love your job this can be really traumatic, whereas we all know people who literally can’t wait.

People around you as you age, can be very supportive

How we feel about these life changes depends in part on our outlook – some of us are naturally more ‘bouncy’ than others – but whether you feel there are enough people around you with whom to share the good things, or be a shoulder to cry on when life gets tough – makes a big difference too. 

Some older people have a rich array of family and friends, but many others don’t. It is rather unfortunate, too, that the older you get, the more likely you are to have to face the illness or deaths of life-long friends. Family support may either not exist or not be near at hand and, in any case, many are reluctant to ‘bother’ busy younger relatives. Support networks shrink.

Knowing where to find advice can be tricky

The problem of loneliness is well known, now, but there’s even more to it than that. Navigating later life in a fast moving world requires know-how and advice to help make the right decisions – such as how to get the right care if you need it, or the pros and cons of moving to somewhere smaller. We all need decent, independent information and advice sometimes and later life is no exception.

So, at Age UK, we were really worried when we found out that more than two and half million older people felt they had no one to turn to for help1 and our aim is to fill this important gap. We want to be there for every older person who needs us, whether via our free telephone advice line (open 365 days a year), or indeed through our wonderful, local Age UKs, which do so much in their communities. It is why we have launched a new campaign this Winter called, ‘No one should have no one to turn to’, which I hope you will want to support. You can find out how at ageuk.org.uk.

1YouGov Plc Companionship survey for Age UK. Total sample size was 1001 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 21st – 22nd August 2018.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 50+).
2.65 million people aged 65+ feel they have no one to turn to for help and support. 23% of people aged 65+ selected ‘always, often or sometimes’ when answering the question ‘How often, if at all, do you ever feel like you have no-one to go to for help/ support?’. Calculations were made by Age UK. Population figures for the UK are based on 2017 population estimates, ONS (2017), using the figure of 11,686,347 people aged 65 or over in GB. ONS (2017) Population Estimates for GB, England, Wales and Scotland: Mid-2017.

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