Older people are in the grip of a "loneliness epidemic", according to research published today.
More than 66 million hours are spent alone by people aged over 65 in Britain each day, equivalent to each person over 65 spending more than 100 days alone each year, the study found.
The survey, conducted for the Associated Retirement Community Operators (Arco), found that a quarter of over-65s (24%) feel lonely some or most of the time and almost one in five (18%) of over-75s sometimes go a full weekend without seeing and speaking to another person.
The survey of 1,030 people aged over 65 found that they spend an average of 6.4 waking hours alone each day.
Multiplied by 10.4 million people over 65, this gives a figure of more than 66 million hours spent alone each day.
When people were asked what worried them most about getting older, poor health (32%) came out top, while having to leave the family home most concerned just 4% of respondents.
However almost three quarters (72%) have not made any changes to the way they live, or made any preparations for their changing housing needs.
Arco chairman Jon Gooding said: "We are in the grip of a loneliness epidemic. People are fearful of their declining health, and yet appear to be unprepared for old age. Couple this with the fact that in 2033 there will be 3.3 million people over the age of 85 in the UK and it becomes clear that we face a momentous challenge. The emergence of this brand new generation, who want more and expect more from their retirement, calls for a entirely different approach to housing and care.
"Today's survey shows that whilst people have legitimate concerns about getting older, they are not so worried about being able to stay in the family home. We know that the decision to 'stay put' is often associated with a complete lack of choice. We need to wake up as a country and ensure that people are aware of, and have access to, a variety of options for high quality housing, care and support in old age.
"Now is the time for the Government to support growth in the housing with care sector, helping older people make the right move at the right time, having access to the support they need whilst maintaining their right to their own front door."
Arco is the main body representing retirement communities in the UK. These communities offer self-contained accommodation, primarily for older people, which can be purchased or rented with security of tenure. There are 50,000 people living in retirement communities in the UK today.