Dame Esther Rantzen has called for a greater range of housing provision for the elderly.
The Childline founder and former BBC journalist made the appeal during an awards ceremony visit to a Tonbridge care company.
She spoke out on the issue before presenting accolades to staff from Consultus Care and Nursing, which specialises in 24/7 live-in support and nursing for older people across the country.
Having founded The Silver Line charity, which offers a confidential helpline for the retired, the campaigner believes one of the key problems facing the elderly is a shortage of properties located centrally within towns.
She said: “More housing should be apportioned for older people, but local councils appear reluctant to give planning permission for such properties, fearing that they are impacting on the work of social services.
“If older people have access to shops and facilities within towns then they are likely to stay well for longer,” added Dame Esther, who praised Consultus’s new carer house in Dry Hill Park Road, Tonbridge, which offers accommodation to staff while they are on assignment or training.
The TV presenter has previously played her part in the Consultus awards on a number of occasions, but the 2016 accolades will be her final appearance.
According to Dame Esther, the company’s care work has been especially valuable in that it provides assistance to people in their own homes – a less stressful experience for its clients than other forms of care.
She said: “I am so impressed with the carers who have received these awards and love hearing their stories.
“I know from my own family how crucial it is that the care is loving and compassionate, and provides security and companionship. I would be thrilled if any family member of mine had the kind of consistent, dedicated and skilled care that these award-winners provide.
“I am sad that I am unable to continue to attend the ceremony, but I look forward to receiving regular updates from Consultus about their work. They are defining best practice in care and nursing in the UK, and the new carer house is another example of that.”
Speaking of the Silver Line charity assisting older people through befriending phone calls, Dame Esther said that since it was established two-and-a-half years ago it has recently taken its one-millionth call.
She described the volume of enquiries it receives as a ‘desperately sad’ situation that underlined the need for its services, which are supported by Consultus.
However, she added that ‘the public really need to get behind the cause’, conceding that it had not been as easy to gain media coverage for this compared to some other charities.
On her work with Childline, Dame Esther voiced concern in the wake of the latest figures which, shockingly, showed that last year 19,481 young people contacted them affected by suicidal thoughts.
This is more than double the rate of five years ago.
She added: “Unhappiness seems to be a background to so many young people’s lives now.
“It’s good that Childline has been able to help a total of four million children over the past 30 years, but we now have a new generation of young people who have problems.”