Of the UK‟s approximately six million carers, around half are aged over 50. A recent survey of carers in England showed that people near or over retirement age undertake a high proportion of caring. Although on average, 12% of the population provide unpaid care for a friend or family member, this increases to 18% for those aged 55–64, 16% for those aged 65–74 and 13% for those aged 75 and above. This comes at a time when others, who do not have caring responsibilities, are planning their retirement, looking forward to long put-off activities, getting involved in their local communities or enjoying their grandchildren. Others, perhaps into their retirement, are enjoying time for themselves, winding down and taking things a little easier as they get older.
“We cannot have a retirement like other people do – there‟s always a timetable to stick to.” For many older carers, planning or enjoying their retirement is simply not an option. At a time when their own heath may be deteriorating, many find themselves exhausted and constantly anxious, rarely getting a break from caring. Carers aged 60–69 often juggle caring – perhaps for more than one person, for example a parent and an adult son or daughter – with the demands of work and financial pressures while those aged 70 and above often find it difficult to cope with the physical demands of caring. For those caring for a partner, the change to a relationship can be hard to adjust to. As well as the daily stress of caring, a feeling of loss – of a relationship or of precious time – can cause great distress. Almost all carers feel frustrated when health professionals do not involve them as a full partner in care. Almost all worry about what the future will hold for them and the person they care for. The Princess Royal Trust for Carers carried out a survey in early 2011 of carers aged 60 and over from across the UK, to find out more about their lives and the challenges they face.