High costs and lack of transport are hitting older rural residents
Living in the countryside is presenting serious obstacles for many older people, a new report has warned.
Research by Age UK found nearly one in four people aged 60 and over living in rural parts of the county said lack of public transport was the biggest challenged they faced.
The report published today revealed several problems with countryside living, such as cuts to local bus services, a lack of nearby shops and services, high cost of heating and lack of access to healthcare.
The study coincides with National Countryside Week this week, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of the countryside and to recognise the people working to maintain and promote it.
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Michelle Mitchell, Age UK's charity director general, said: "Life in rural England is very tough for many people.
"Too many are stranded at home, lonely and isolated, struggling to the shops, Post Office and even hospital, because of a lack of local bus services.
"The high cost of heating because so many rural homes are badly insulated and are off the mains gas grid as well as the challenge of getting adequate social care all add up to make life in the countryside difficult for many and far from the stereotype of a rural paradise."
The charity estimates 1.5 million older people in rural areas are reliant on oil to heat their homes, which often costs more than gas and electricity.
The report comes after the Government decided to hold back around £20 million it was giving to Cornwall, Devon and Somerset for much-needed transport schemes.
Bert Biscoe, chairman of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Transport Board, said: "With thousands of kilometres of roads, millions of tourists, and a rural economy that relies on unclassified rural roads... it's very disappointing to see such a minimal investment in developing transport infrastructure to support our future economy."
Figures published by the Office for National Statistics at the end of last year found families living in the countryside were spending £2,700 more a year on living costs than households in cities.
Westcountry MPs have warned of the effects of a lack of affordable transport in rural areas. Truro and Falmouth MP Sarah Newton has claimed wider society suffers the effects of rural dwellers missing out on vital transport services.
St Ives MP Andrew George has urged the Government not to make the countryside an "exclusive" place for the more wealthy.
Countyside communities have a higher number of older people than other areas, with around half of the rural population aged over 45, compared with 36% in big urban areas, according to Age UK.
Victoria Harris, director of The Prince's Countryside Fund, said: "We know that rural isolation and lack of services are a real problem across the UK, with post offices, village shops and pubs closing at an alarming rate. These closures tend to hit groups such as the elderly particularly hard and combined with the decline of local transport it is a major issue."