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Older people in Britain spend equivalent of over 100 days alone each year


  • One in five over-65s spend their waking day alone
  • London  is the loneliest place to grow old
  • Many over 75s spend their entire weekend alone

Britain is in the grip of a loneliness epidemic, according to a new survey published today (11 March) by the Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO).

The survey results suggest that more than 66 million hours are spent alone by people aged over 65[i] each day, equivalent to each person over 65 spending over 100 days alone each year[ii]. Studies have dubbed loneliness a ‘hidden killer’ which can increase the risks of death amongst older people by 10 per cent[iii]. Members of ARCO will today discuss with MPs and Peers how retirement communities (housing with care) can play a central role in tackling isolation, loneliness and the associated health risks amongst older people.

The Opinium Research survey of 1,030 people aged over 65 conducted for ARCO also comes as a major House of Lords Select Committee inquiry is conducted into how Government should respond to an ageing society[iv].

The survey findings include:

  • A quarter of respondents feel lonely some or most of the time (24 per cent)
  • Almost one in five (18 per cent) of over 75s sometimes go a full weekend without seeing and speaking to another person
  • Over half of respondents (54 per cent) feel unable to talk about this loneliness with their family; or their children (46 per cent)
  • London is the loneliest place to grow old (average of 7.8 hours on their own in a typical day)

Today’s survey also lays bare the myth that a primary concern for older people is staying in their own home; a common misconception in Westminster and Whitehall. When asked what worried them most about getting older, poor health (32 per cent) came out top, while having to leave the family home most concerned just four per cent of respondents.

Despite being worried about their health declining with age and being forced to move into a care home, people appear unprepared for older age. Almost three quarters (72 per cent) of respondents have not made any changes to the way they live, or made any preparations for their changing housing needs.

ARCO Chairman, Jon Gooding, said:

“We are in the grip of a loneliness epidemic; people are fearful of their declining health; and yet appear to be unprepared for old age. Couple this with the fact that in 2033 there will be 3.3 million people over the age of 85 in the UK and it becomes clear that we face a momentous challenge. The emergence of this brand new generation, who want more and expect more from their retirement, calls for a entirely different approach to housing and care. 

 “Today’s survey shows that whilst people have legitimate concerns about getting older, they are not so worried about being able to stay in the family home. We know that the decision to ‘stay put’ is often associated with a complete lack of choice. We need to wake up as a country and ensure that people are aware of, and have access to, a variety of options for high quality housing, care and support in old age.”

 Today’s research also coincides with Joint Select Committee’s pre-legislative scrutiny of the Draft Care and Support Bill. ARCO recently submitted evidence to the committee calling for a greater emphasis on meaningful integration of health, care and housing planning at the local level; and for a diverse care and housing market place to cater for all generations, now and in the future.

 Jon Gooding added:

“Now is the time for the Government to support growth in the housing with care sector, helping older people make the right move at the right time, having access to the support they need whilst maintaining their right to their own front door.”



Notes to Editors

For more information contact Neil Gadhok 020 7824 1859 / [email protected]  or Katie Russell on 020 7824 1859 / [email protected]

For out of hours media enquiries, please contact Katie Russell on 07973 505 207

 Opinion Poll Results

Opinimum conducted an online survey of 1,030 people aged over 65 in the UK between 15th and 18th February 2013.


How many hours, while you are awake, do you spend on your own on a typical day? Total (%) (Base: 1030 respondents)
0-2 33
3-5 28
6-10 18
11-15 11
16-20 10
Average 6.4 hours

 Key findings

  • Average hours spend alone by over 65s on a typical day = 6.4 hours
  • Percentage of over 65s who spend 20 hours on their own on a typical day (16-20 hours) = 10 per cent
  • Percentage of over 65s who spend the entire waking day on their own on a typical day (11-20 hours) = 21 per cent

About ARCO

Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO) is the main body that represents retirement communities in the UK. The Association was formed to raise awareness of the retirement community model, which ARCO believes can provide a credible solution to the pressing challenge of how we meet the lifestyle, health and social care needs of our ageing population. Retirement communities may also be referred to as retirement villages; extra care housing; housing with care; assisted living; close care apartments; and independent living.

ARCO continually strives to:

  • Promote confidence in the sector, ensuring that all members are providing a high quality service to their residents. To this end, all ARCO-registered schemes have to adhere to the standards laid out in the ARCO Charter.
  • Raise awareness of the retirement community model amongst older people and stakeholders alike –  ensuring that all older people are aware of the variety of housing options available to them; and that policy makers fully understand the ways in which this type of housing provision can meet the lifestyle, health and social care needs of our ageing population.
  • Increase the volume and quality of expertise within the sector and share this with members, continually investing in research to better understand and promote the socio-economic value of the housing with care model.

Quick facts about retirement communities

  • Retirement communities offer self-contained accommodation, primarily for older people, which can be purchased or rented with security of tenure.
  • There are currently 50,000 people living in retirement communities in the UK today.
  • Residents can take advantage of personal care that is delivered flexibly, usually by staff based on the premises, and have access to a wide range of additional domestic services (housing with care).
  • Residents can choose either to eat in their own homes or in a restaurant or communal dining area. All communal facilities are managed to encourage an active social programme in the community.
  • Retirement communities aim to provide residents with a home for life, enabling people to “age in place”.
  • The potential impact of retirement communities on the UK property market is significant, enabling older people to free up equity and invest in a new home. Critically, residents in a retirement community will be assured security of tenure. This is particularly important as research has shown a preference amongst older people for owner occupation.
  • In 2010 the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) commissioned a study into the financial benefits of investment in specialist housing (retirement communities being a type of specialist housing). The report concluded that the total benefit of specialist housing is approximately £1.6 billion. The largest single benefit was estimated for older people. The report attributed this saving to a reduction in a reliance on health and social care services.

[i] British adults aged 65+ spend 66,406,400 of waking hours alone each day (based on an average of 6.4 hours from the sample of 1000 UK adults aged 65+ x 10.4 million 65+ adults in the UK (ONS)).

[ii] According to the sample, British adults over the age of 65 spend, on average, 6.4 hours alone each day. This equates to 2,336 hours each year (6.4 hours x 365 days). This is equivalent to 137.4 days alone each year (2,336 hours / 17 hours). [Most healthy adults in the UK sleep for 7 hours each night, leaving 17 hours awake (http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Insomnia/Pages/Symptoms.aspx) i.e. the average waking day for a healthy adult in the UK is 17 hours).

[iii] Carla M. Perissinotto, MD, MHS; Irena Stijacic Cenzer, MA; Kenneth E. Covinsky, MD, MPH, Loneliness in Older Persons: A Predictor of Functional Decline and Death, Arch Intern Med. 2012; 172(14):1078-1084.

[iv] The House of Lords Select Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change is due to publish the findings from its inquiry into the ageing population in March 2013.