Thousand still dying alone without friends or family support - Dying Matters underlines the need to combat social isolation among older people

9 August 2010
The Local Government Association’s Public Health Funerals Survey 2010, released this week, has revealed a worrying increase in taxpayer-funded ‘pauper’s graves’. Last year, around 2,200 people were buried or cremated by councils across England and Wales, either because they died alone with no traceable family or friends, or because family and friends were unable or unwilling to pay for a funeral.

Eve Richardson, Chief Executive of the Dying Matters coalition, said:

“This report underlines the need for us all to watch out for our older neighbours and for us all to plan ahead.  Increasing numbers of older people are living alone and are socially isolated.  Many members of the Dying Matters coalition are active in local communities and work to combat this increase in social isolation, but as a society we will need to come up with new ways to combat the problem.  Starting to talk about it is an important first step and next to plan ahead.

"Older People being buried in what are in effect ‘Paupers’ graves should have no place in modern society. Unfortunately these numbers will only increase unless as a society we begin to take more responsibility for what happens to us and those older people living alone in communities.

"The Government is looking at the future of long term care and this must include more creative solutions to funeral costs too. Older people who have paid taxes all their lives can end up poor and die alone in an undignified way. We must talk more about this in a compassionate society and the Dying Matters coalition will lead on this debate. We need new and more equitable solutions using current funding combined with insurance and, or personal plans to ensure so that we all get a ‘good funeral’.  We should all talk about our wishes when we are well with family and friends and plan for these to be met”. 

Three easy ways to make a difference

  • Ensure your local neighbourhood keeps an eye out for older people living alone and include in any neighbourhood watch
  • Get to know your neighbours, especially older or disabled people on their own
  • Tell your family or friends about your funeral preferences and write them down and keep them in a safe place


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