A growing number of older people die in isolation in Wales, with no relatives beside them and no one but the local authorities to make end-of-life arrangements, data seen by Wales Online shows.
Charity, Age Cymru, says the problem of social isolation is getting more pronounced with the aging of the population, with men being more exposed to the risk of loneliness in their final years. Recent figures from WRVS, an age positive charity, show that elderly men in Wales are the loneliest in the UK, which only confirms this worrying trend.
Over the past four years, Welsh health authorities paid out nearly £400,000 to arrange funerals for over 620 people with no traceable next of kin, or no relatives willing or able to make the arrangements.
The figures were revealed after Welsh health boards received numerous Freedom of Information requests. Sarah Rochira, Older People's Commissioner for Wales, said she was highly aware of the devastating effect old-age, isolation and loneliness has on people, adding that the issue needs further efforts and would top her priority list for the next four years.
The Aneurin Bevan health authority in charge of South East Wales had the biggest funeral costs, spending £149,294 in the past four years.
Cardiff and Vale Health Board spent £50,000 on funerals for deceased persons with no relatives in the past three years. Last year the authority paid £21,127 for funeral arrangements, or twice its 2010/11 spending of £10,122.
The Cwm Taf Health Board has arranged 18 funerals for a total of £17,805 since October 2009 but did not provide a breakdown by years.