FRAGMENTED families have created social conditions resulting in an increase in the number of elderly people suffering from loneliness.
The problem is exacerbated as parents suffer the impact of their children moving away from home to find work, according to the latest research.
The study, published today, says a total of 230,000 over-75s with grown-up children are resigned to the fact that they will spend Christmas alone this year.
The pressure of their grown-up children’s work and family commitments is taking its toll on the nation’s older people with a new report by older people’s charity WRVS identifying 363,176 have children too busy to see them.
The report reveals the fragmented nature of families today and the large number of over 75- year-olds whose closest children live a substantial distance away from them. For ten per cent of older people, their nearest child lives more than an hour’s drive away (40 miles-plus).
The research shows that only 28 per cent of older people in Scotland speak to their children on the phone every day compared with 40 per cent across the UK as a whole, while 7 per cent of older people never speak to their children on the phone.
Eighty five per cent of people who use Skype say that it helps them feel more connected. However, there is recognition that it is not the same as seeing your children (87 per cent).
The majority of older people do not use Skype to talk to their children (95 per cent). This is because, for many (42 per cent) they do not know how to use it.
The regularity of Skype use varies across the nations: in England 21 per cent of those who use Skype do so weekly, in Wales it is 38 per cent and Scotland 75 per cent.
Distance has an impact on how often older people see their family, with the frequency of grown-up children visiting their parents decreasing the further away they live: of those whose children live an hour’s drive away or more, almost half (48 per cent) are visited just once every two to six months.
Declines in job security and labour-market restructuring have increased pressure on the family and reduced location choices – 82 per cent of children who have moved away from their older parents have done so for work reasons.
David McCullough, chief executive of WRVS, said: “This research casts light on the state of the modern family. Many children have no choice but to move away from their older parents because of work or family reasons and really regret the fact that they aren’t close enough for more regular visits to alleviate their parents’ loneliness.
“There are solutions, though, that will give older people the support and companionship they need and their children the reassurance that their parents are being looked after. WRVS, for example, has thousands of dedicated volunteers who can pop in to read to or run errands for older people, or simply have a chat and a cup of tea.
“At this time of year, with Christmas approaching, older people with family living far away may be feeling even lonelier and so services like ours are even more vital.”
While the vast majority (93 per cent) of older people feel that their grown up children see them as much as they can, 17 per cent would like to see their children more often.