Older people living alone at the end of life in the U.K.: research and policy challenges

Palliat Med. 2011 Sep;25(6):650-7. doi: 10.1177/0269216310373165. Epub 2010 Jul 9.


Older people who live alone face particular challenges if they are to age and die well in the place and manner of their choosing. This discussion paper examines the experiences and needs of older people living alone towards the end of life. The paper focuses on the U.K., given recent policy and service development initiatives there which emphasize home as a place of support and care; the promotion of independence; ensuring choice and decision making; and equity. These initiatives do not acknowledge diversity in the older population and make little provision to meet the specific needs that older people living alone may have as they approach the end of life. We identify three broader social factors that influence whether older people who live alone can remain at home until the end of their lives. The first factor is the physical environment; the second concerns their material environment; and the third relates to their social environment and their access to informal and formal care services. In future, palliative care research of relevance to older people should consider living arrangements as an important variable and be cognisant of the way in which wider social issues constrain the quality of end-of-life care that those living alone in older age receive.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Comorbidity
  • Demography / trends
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Policy
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Independent Living / trends*
  • Life Expectancy / trends
  • Male
  • Palliative Care
  • Policy
  • Poverty
  • Research
  • Social Isolation
  • Social Support
  • Terminal Care / standards*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology