'Britain Fails On Quality Of Elderly Care'

Darren Little, Sky News correspondent

Standards of elderly care in Britain are lagging behind some of our European rivals, according to a new report.

Loneliness and feelings of isolation were the biggest issues for those questioned for the survey by the WRVS charity.

It compared British pensioners with their counterparts in Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands.

Overall Britain came third out of the four countries, but our elderly were the most likely to feel isolated, had the lowest net income and felt victims of age discrimination.

David McCullough, chief executive of the WRVS, told Sky News: "This research highlights the sad truth about growing old in Britain today and should act as a wake-up call.

"The treatment of older people in this country needs to be addressed and we must learn from our EU partners.

"They have proved that it is possible to tackle some of these issues by taking advantage of volunteers to provide older people with more social contact and better links to their communities.

"This in turn will have a knock on beneficial impact on their health."

At the Bullingdon Community Centre in Oxford, pensioners are able to attend a day centre run by Age UK once a week, where they can socialise and have a meal together.

Centre manager Ella Thomas told Sky News the project makes a real difference for many of their regulars.

"It is a lifeline for older people, a day centre or community club where they feel they receive a respite from being on their own," she said.

"I think loneliness can be a tremendous hazard in older people in terms of being able to get out of their own homes and feeling trapped."

Edna Franklin, 87, shows how much a decent social life can make a difference to older people.

For four years she went out to go to the supermarket once a week. The rest of the time she was virtually housebound.

Ms Franklin now attends a WRVS day centre in Banbury at least twice a week and she says she feels healthier.

"Everyone says I look a lot better since I've been going out," she said.

WRVS believes improving the social lives of older people will help improve their health and allow them to live in their own homes for longer.

Its survey discovered that more public spending on elderly services was not the only answer. In Sweden and the Netherlands higher rates of volunteering were also having a positive effect.

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