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Frail old people may be without family care by 2041 finds new LSE research

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Around 250,000 vulnerable pensioners could be left without family care by 2041, opening up an unpaid care gap and potentially increasing demand for paid services, finds new research by LSE research fellow Linda Pickard|.

Demand for unpaid care by frail older people from their adult children is projected to rise by 90 per cent in the next 35 years - yet the number of offspring projected to provide the intense care likely to meet their needs (care for 20 hours a week or more) will only rise by 27 per cent.

The paper, entitled Informal Care for Older People Provided by their Adult Children, finds that this care gap is primarily driven by demographic changes, as Linda Pickard a researcher in the School's Personal Social Services Research Unit (PSSRU)| explains:

'The older population, that is, people over the age of 65, is growing faster than the pool of people potentially providing unpaid care. Thus, there will be more older people who need care compared to younger people available to look after them.'

If family care increased to meet the care gap, then this could decrease the proportion of people who are able to go out to work, particularly women, who currently constitute around 60 per cent of people providing this sort of care, a percentage projected to be around the same in 2041.

'Because the majority of people caring intensely for older parents are of working age and looking after their parents for long hours is likely to prevent them holding down a job, any increase in intense care provision may be associated with a decrease in labour market participation', explains Ms Pickard.

'As more women than men provide unpaid care to their older parents, they will be disproportionately affected. This could lead to an increase in gender inequality' she added.

It is current government policy for labour market participation rates to increase to 80 per cent and to reach this more people, especially 'older workers', need to be employed, yet these are precisely the people most likely to provide intense unpaid care to older parents.

Ms Pickard said if these projections are realised, they could have implications for care services:

'In order to keep pace with demand, either more people will need to provide intense informal care, thus potentially decreasing labour market participation, or more formal services, in the shape of very intensive home care, 'extra care' housing or long-stay residential care, will need to be provided. This research raises questions about long-term care policies that rely heavily on informal or unpaid care.'


Click here to download a copy of the paper Informal Care for Older People Provided by their Adult Children| or visit www.pssru.ac.uk/pdf/dp2515.pdf| 


This research was prepared for the Strategy Unit (Cabinet Office) and the Department of Health in May 2008. This is the first dissemination of the results.

Frail older people are defined as those with a functional disability, that is, they have difficulty with, or are unable to perform, domestic care tasks, such as shopping, or personal care tasks, such as bathing/showering.

Projections are based on specific assumptions. A key assumption, based on recent past trends, is that the probability of providing intense unpaid remains unchanged, but it should be noted that past trends are not necessarily a guide to future trends.


  • There are currently 400,000 people providing intense informal care to their older disabled parents, projected to rise to 500,000 in 2041
  • Yet the number of people needing care is projected to rise from 600,000 to 1.3 million in 2041
  • The care-receivers:care-providers ratio is projected to fall from 0.6 in 2005 to 0.4 in 2041


Linda Pickard at l.m.pickard@lse.ac.uk|

Esther Avery, LSE Press Office, on 020 7955 7060 or at e.avery@lse.ac.uk|

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The Financial, Georgia
Frail old people may be without family care by 2041 finds new LSE research

30 October 2008