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The number of people aged over 80 who are caring for someone has rocketed to an estimated 417,000 in the last seven years.

With a growing population, it will probably come as no surprise that the number of older carers has also increased.

In fact, new figures released by the charity Age UK show that over the past seven years, the number of carers aged 80 or over has increased from 301,000 to 417,000 – an increase of nearly 39%. That means one in seven people over 80 not provide some form of care to family and friends.

Meanwhile, the total number of carers aged 65 and over who are providing informal care for another person has risen from nearly 1.7 million to over 2 million in the last seven years.

What’s more, over half of these carers are rack up 35 hours of caring per week – akin to a full time job. The work these elderly carers do is not only vital – many care for spouses or disabled grown-up children and many could be looking after a loved one with dementia – but it’s also saving the country nearly £6 billion a year.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said:

‘We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the hundreds of thousands of over-80s who are caring, many of them virtually full-time, saving the country nearly £6 billion a year in the process. More of that money needs spending on supporting them, as well as the people they look after – usually their partner, but sometimes a friend or disabled adult child.

‘Most of these wonderful older people tell us they care because they want to and are committed to, but they also often say they see no alternative. Many admit to being exhausted and worried about how long they can carry on, and the consequences if they become seriously ill themselves.

‘The task of providing care ought to be fairly shared between individuals, families and the state, but as public funding falls further and further behind the growing demand for care we worry that very old people are being expected to fill the gap. They can’t do it all on their own and we shouldn’t take advantage of their determination to do right by those they love.’