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Family matters as two sisters - with a combined age of 184 - take on extra care roles

23 March 2017

Sisters Caring For Each Other Didcot

With the rising number of older people needing care across the UK, Oxfordshire resident Phyllis Groves wasn’t shocked to hear Health Minister David Mowat suggest that families should give as much support to the elderly as they do to their children. After all, the 91-year-old is doing just that, albeit alongside her 87-year-old sister.

When former store clerk Phyllis moved to a unit at Hanover Housing Association’s estate in Didcot in 2008, she never realised that within a few short years she would not only be reunited with her sisters Emily and Eileen, but she would also be looking after them.

According to a joint report from Age UK and Carers UK ‘Caring into later’ life’, nonagenarian Phyllis is just one of some 1.2 million carers across the UK over the age of 65. Estimates suggest that this type of care has an annual value of £15 billion, meaning there could be an even greater strain on already limited resources locally. Worryingly, 2017 has also been identified by the IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) as the year in which the number of elderly who need care will outstrip adult children who can provide it.

Phyllis regularly carries out daily tasks normally associated with domiciliary care. In a typical week she cooks, cleans, and makes the beds. She said: 'Friends and family often tell me that I am just unpaid carer. I disagree – Emily and I are very close and the truth is that we actually look after each other.

'The secret to a happy retirement is to live close to loved ones and spend time looking after them.'

Emily added: 'Phyllis is amazing. Up until fairly recently she even cared for our other sister Eileen.'

Following a cataract operation, the tables were turned and Emily came to her Eileen's rescue when she was required to apply drops to her sister’s eyes every two hours.

In their spare time the sisters enjoy having a spot of afternoon tea while playing darts in Hanover Courts communal lounge.

Chloe Wright, Policy Manager at Carers UK said: 'Growing numbers of older people are caring for others at a time when they are more likely to need care themselves. Many people don’t see themselves as carers but they are doing just that. Older carers make a huge contribution to our society estimated to be worth £15 billion a year. They must be recognised, valued and supported to ensure that they are able to look after their own health too.'

Recent figures from the ONS (Office of National Statistics) show that the UK has an ageing population that is heading towards mind-boggling proportions, so it should come as no surprise to learn that the number of older carers has also grown, up by 128 per cent in just ten years. Nearly 18 per cent of the country is now aged over 65, with 1.5 million people aged 85 and over.


Notes to editors:

  1. A copy of the Age UK/Carers UK report is available here
  2. A copy of the IPPR report is available here