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News 23 March 2017 l Health & wellbeing

We are family: sisters show that caring doesn’t stop at 90

Hanover resident Phyllis is one of an extraordinary growing breed – as a carer in her nineties.

Former store clerk Phyllis moved to a Hanover estate in Didcot in 2008. She was later joined at the estate by older sisters Emily and Eileen. She went on to become a carer for both sisters, but now just looks after 93-year-old Emily.

As far as Emily is concerned: 'Phyllis is amazing' – and who could argue. Despite being 90 herself, in a typical week Phyllis cooks, cleans and makes the beds – all tasks associated with domiciliary care.

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Phyllis says: 'Friends and family often tell me I am just an unpaid carer. I disagree. Emily and I are very close and the truth is that we actually look after each other.'

She points out that after a cataract operation, it was Emily who applied drops to her eyes at two hourly intervals.

Studies show that carers like Phyllis are becoming much more common. A joint report issued by Age UK and Carers UK two years ago found some 1.2 million carers over the age of 65 across the UK.

Over the past ten years, the number of older carers has grown by a staggering 128%, as the population rapidly ages. With 18% of the country aged over 65, there are now 1.5 million people aged 85 and over. Older carers are estimated to be making a contribution to society worth an impressive £15 billion each year.

However, like Phyllis, many older carers simply don’t see themselves like that. As well as caring for one another, the sisters enjoy each other’s company. They particularly like afternoon tea and a game of darts in the estate’s communal lounge.

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As for looking after family, for Phyllis it is just a way of life. She says firmly: 'The secret to a happy retirement is to live close to loved ones and spend time looking after them.'