Old people with docNew research published today by Age UK reveals that the number of people in their 80s and over who are caring for a loved one has risen by almost 39% in the past seven years to 417,000.

The research also revealed that the unpaid care and support provided by carers over 80 years old is saving the health and care system £5.9 billion a year.

One in seven people aged 80 and over now provide some form of care to a family member or friend. Over the past seven years, the number of carers aged 80 and over has risen from 301,000 to 417,000 – an increase of almost 39%. Meanwhile, the total number of carers aged 65 and over has risen from nearly 1.7 million (1,675,000) to over 2 million (2,076,000) in the last seven years.

With an ageing population, Age UK estimates that there will be more than three-quarters of a million (760,000) carers aged over 80 by 2030. Also over half of carers in this age group who are caring for someone in their home are doing so for more than 35 hours per week, while a further 156,000 are caring for more than 20 hours per week. The majority of older carers are looking after a partner, with a minority caring for disabled sons and daughters.

Emily Holzhausen, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Carers UK, said: “Older carers make an enormous but often hidden contribution to our society and the levels of care being provided are staggering. But, we hear time and again from carers that this comes at a cost to their own health and wellbeing, unable to leave the home or get sufficient breaks form caring. Our ageing population calls for greater investment now, from Government, social care services and the NHS to meet the increasing demand for care but also support the rapidly expanding numbers of older people who are themselves providing care. Action is urgently needed to ensure that older carers have the support they need and are not left caring alone by shrinking support services.”