Elderly isolated in the countryside

Cuts to bus services, shop closures and the high cost of heating are causing social isolation for the elderly living in rural areas, a new study has found.

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Cuts to bus services, shop closures and the high cost of heating are causing social isolation for the elderly living in rural areas, a new study has found.

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Living in the countryside has many advantages for the elderly, and it is often seen as an attractive and peaceful place to retire. However, quite often challenges are faced regarding transport, health and social care, as well fuel, poverty and broadband access.

A new campaign funded by Age UK, and supported by the Prince’s Countryside Fund, is hoping to raise awareness and tackle challenges faced by older people in these rural areas.

At present, approximately 50% of the rural population is aged over 45, and the rural population is predominantly aged between 45 and 64. By 2028, the over-85 age group is set to increase by 186% in rural areas, compared to 149% in the UK as a whole.

Transport is a key challenge, and many bus routes are closing due to cost or lack of passengers, meaning that the elderly are less connected with friends, families and local amenities.

Fuel prices are particularly challenging in rural areas, due to many locations not having access to mains gas, resulting in a 27% rise in energy costs. Speed of broadband access and lack of phone signal also adds to social isolation, as does the closure of village shops, post offices and pubs.

Michelle Mitchell, Age UK’s charity director general, said, “Its more critical than ever that the government and local authorities make sure that the older people who live in rural communities, many frail and vulnerable, have access to the services and facilities they need.”

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For more information check out Age UK’s factsheets and information guides.