Nearly a third of people aged 80 and over are saving the health and social care system £23 billion a year by providing unpaid care, according to new figures from Age UK.
The charity said this section of society provides 23 million hours of unpaid care a week, which adds up to 1.2 billion hours of care a year.
Almost 1 in 3 (30%) older people aged 80 and over are carers and since 2010 the number of carers in this age group has rocketed by nearly a quarter (23%) to 970,000, Age UK said.
The charity warned that this has come at a cost to carers’ own health and wellbeing, with 71% of carers aged 80 and over having long-standing health problems of their own and 46% having difficulty with moving about at home.
The majority of these older people are looking after a partner as older couples try to manage living at home for as long as possible. A minority care for disabled sons and daughters.
Meanwhile, the total number of carers aged 65 and over who are providing informal care for another person has risen from 2.7 million to 3.3 million in the last eight years.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK accused the government of “exploiting” the goodwill of elderly carers by failing to fix the social care system.
“The burden placed on these older carers’ shoulders is not only physical and emotional but financial too, because after years of government underfunding so many older people who need care are having to pay for it themselves, wiping out the savings they’ve worked had for all their lives and sometimes resulting in the family home having to be sold.
“Blessed as it is with such a substantial Parliamentary majority, our new Government is better placed than any in the last twenty years to refinance and reform social care. The Prime Minister has promised to fix care and now he needs to follow through, with no more excuses or delays – surely it’s the least our brilliant older carers deserve.”