Tuesday, June 10, 2008

How half a million lonely old men are paying the price of the divorce boom

By Steve Doughty
Last updated at 9:51 PM on 09th June 2008

Half a million elderly men lead lonely lives with no friends and no contact from their families, a report warned yesterday.

It found that one person in five with an elderly father is no longer in touch with him. One in four claims to be too busy to maintain contact.

Divorce and family break-up has left millions of men without ties to their children and with few or no family links, said the charity Help the Aged.

Retirement deprives many of the company of work colleagues and others are left alone by bereavement or their own poor health.

Of the million elderly men who live alone, half have no human contact and many feel trapped inside their homes.

Amy Swan of Help the Aged said: 'We are seeing the first real wave of the "divorce generation" hitting retirement.

'As fathers were typically the parents who did not win custody of the children, many are entering later life with strained family ties.

'Today, around half the number of older men living alone are experiencing some form of loneliness or isolation.'

The number of divorces tripled in the early 1970s after the liberal reforms of 1969 made 'quickie' decrees available for the first time and removed the question of fault in many cases.

Men who divorced in the early 1970s while in their mid-30s will now be 70 years old and many have lost all contact with children who would otherwise be close to them.

While divorce rates remain high - in 2006 there were nearly 133,000 - the effects of the growth of cohabitation and rapid family break-up from the 1980s are now beginning to have an impact on the lives of men who have grown old.

A survey of 2,000 respondents carried out for the charity and the Zurich Community Trust by ICM Research said one in five adults felt guilty at not seeing an elderly father more often, half would like to have more contact with their father and two in five live too far away to see him regularly.

Two in five, the survey found, do not intend visiting ageing fathers this Sunday, Father's Day.

Miss Swan said: 'Nothing can substitute human contact to combat isolation and loneliness.

'Whether it's setting up a regular phone call, visit or even sending a letter, we can all play a part in helping alleviate the social isolation felt by so many older people.'

Jane Boulton of the Zurich Community Trust added: 'Often just that little bit of contact and support makes someone feel able to retain choice, control and dignity in their life.'

One-way traffic at the bank of mum and dad

A third of parents are financially supporting their grown-up children - but doubt that the favour will be returned.

Record house prices, huge student debt and the soaring cost of living are blamed for children's growing dependence on help from their parents.

A report from the savings firm Birmingham Midshires found that 96 per cent of parents said they do not believe their children would be in a position to support them financially if they were to fall on hard times in the future.

It discovered that many older people cannot really afford to help their children, but cannot bear to say No.

On average, they have savings, excluding their pension, of just under £30,000.

Tim Hague, director of savings at Birmingham Midshires, owned by the banking giant Halifax, said the research identifies a huge social shift in society.

'The UK appears to have a generation depending on the Bank of Mum and Dad.'

1 comment:

Lynne said...

Oh dear! One of them is my father... Thank you for posting this.