Older generations of rural residents are becoming increasingly socially isolated, according to an independent study.

The Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) found that 23% of people living in rural areas are over retirement age, compared with 18% in urban areas. As a result, rates of ill health are far higher and services can often be stretched.

The report found that “many local authorities are having to charge more, or provide care only to the most needy, in rural areas compared to urban” – increasing the risk of individuals becoming more confined to their own home, and more socially isolated.

Because social care costs in the countryside are higher than in urban areas, many rural dwellers are receiving lower comparable personal budgets, while having to pay more for the services they receive.

The study also concluded that community transport is becoming increasingly crucial as scheduled bus services in rural areas dwindle. Elderly people experience “very different access to bus services in different areas”, it said.

CRC chairman Stuart Burgess said: “This report highlights a number of crucial factors that the government need to consider when rural-proofing policies and services.

“Older people, regardless of where they live, should enjoy equal opportunity of access to services for equal needs.”

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