High life expectancy 'masks deprivation' in Surrey

Image caption,
Guildford has high life expectancy but also "four or five" pockets of deprivation

With some of the highest life expectancy rates in the UK, Surrey could be seen as offering a reasonable chance of a long and healthy life.

Research for the BBC by public sector analysts Experian found people in Epsom and Ewell fared particularly well.

Life expectancy for men, at 81.8 years, is the third highest in the country. For women, it is 85.6, the fourth highest.

Men in Guildford can expect to live to 80.7 and women 84.9, compared with a UK-wide life expectancy of 77.9 and 82.

Boroughs such as Guildford, Woking and Tandridge also have high numbers of adults over 50 in work, indicating a good quality of life.

But according to Surrey Age Concern, the figures are deceptive, for while the county appears prosperous it also has many areas of deprivation.

'Scratch the surface'

"It is very regrettable that Surrey is always considered to be wealthy," said spokeswoman Pamela Parry-Jones.

"We have four or five pockets of deprivation in Guildford alone, such as Bellfields and Park Barn.

"The overall picture is very rosy but if you scratch the surface you find a different story."

House prices in Surrey are some of the highest the country - Nationwide's figures for June-August 2010 showed the average for north Surrey was £315,346 compared with an average for England of £187,386.

But Ms Parry-Jones said that often meant older people were "asset rich but cash poor" - living in expensive houses but with little income.

She said that since 1963, when Age Concern opened in Surrey, demand had increased for help such as befriending people.

"Society is not as it was. People are isolated when families move abroad, they can't drive and transport is diminished."

Other services such as footcare, offered at a reduced rate, were popular.

"People can't afford £25 a time - these services have been introduced because there is such a big demand for them."

Increasing frailty

In Waverley, where life expectancy is 80.7 for men and 84.9 for women, the borough council's older persons housing strategy points out that as people live longer, more will have chronic illnesses and disabilities.

Conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, incontinence, osteoporosis, dementia, depression and general frailty are expected to increase.

It identifies transport as a crucial issue for older people living in rural areas, along with good housing and access to facilities and social networks.

"If you have got an ageing population, the question of how care is funded is going to be very difficult with the cutbacks being put forward," said Ms Parry-Jones.

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