Millions of older people are being affected by a hidden mental health crisis, according to a charity.

Age UK said the last two years have had an “alarming” impact on older people, many of whom have lost confidence and motivation and are experiencing anxiety, memory loss, and disturbed sleep.

Those with dementia and cognitive impairment have seen their condition deteriorate more quickly than would have been otherwise anticipated over the last two years, it said.

In some cases, older people have reported feeling suicidal and many have lost the confidence to even leave their homes.

The charity is urging friends and relatives of older people to reach out for a chat, or send a letter, and encouraged people to ask for help if they are struggling.

Some 1,598 people in the UK aged 60 and over were questioned for the charity by Kantar Polling in August and September last year.

It found that a third of older people feel more anxious, and a similar proportion (34%) feel less motivated to do the things they enjoy, compared with before the pandemic.

Scaled up to reflect the UK population, this suggests 4.1 million people are feeling more anxious and more than 4.3 million less motivated.

What did Age UK have to say on the issue?

Charity director Caroline Abrahams said older people have traditionally been under-referred for NHS talking therapies, despite evidence showing they respond well when they do receive treatment.

She said: “The pandemic has had a big impact on everyone of all ages and very few of us are emerging from the last two years completely unscathed.

“However, talking about mental health and wellbeing is not something most older people have traditionally done, so they need to know it’s OK – perfectly normal in fact.

“Many older people may feel reluctant to start a conversation about mental health, but the NHS is still there to support them and can offer treatments such as talking therapies which are often very effective.”