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Over 85s Most at Risk of Social Exclusion

Recent research has revealed that those over the age of 85 are the most at risk of social exclusion, with large numbers struggling with everyday errands, such as GP visits or shopping trips. A team of researchers from Sheffield Hallam and Lincoln universities studied over 10,000 people aged 65 and older, and discovered that 16% of those over the age of 85 had significant difficulties accessing healthcare services and shops.

The researchers also found that nearly half of all over 85s did not go out socially at all. Perhaps most surprising is the fact that these statistics were the same for couples as well as singles. The research indicates that older women suffer more than men and struggle more to access essential services.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) predict that there will be around 3.2 million UK residents aged over 85 by 2039 as increased life expectancy and developments in healthcare continue to lead to an older population, meaning an increased strain on healthcare providers, social services and residential care homes.

social interaction

Over-85s Most at Risk

Dr Wesley Key, who took part in the research study, explained that it will become increasingly important to differentiate older people from the “younger old”, as the two groups are often lumped together but in actual fact have a very different set of needs and issues. The over-85s are far more at risk of becoming socially excluded than those in the younger age group of 65 to 84. The research found that the risk of social exclusion among the over-85s remained high even if ill-health factors were taken into consideration, proving that the main issue is age and not health.

Dr Key went on to explain that social exclusion can be extremely damaging to both physical and mental health. This leads to older people then requiring more assistance from health and social care providers, placing increased strain on services.

Minimising Social Exclusion

While many individuals prefer to remain in their own homes living an independent life, moving to one of the local residential care homes can provide social interaction and a sense of security. For those over-85s who prefer – and are able – to stay in their own homes, there are a number of ways to help increase social interaction and minimise the risk of becoming excluded. Telecare is one option and can provide both the individual and their family with peace of mind. In addition, technology like Skype can help people stay in touch, while being online can help with a number of practical issues, including accessing banking and grocery shopping. These are important things for older people and can help them to remain independent.

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