Nearly a third of older people with care needs do not receive crucial help, according to an Age UK study.
Without the help of care workers, family, friends or neighbours 31.1 per cent of 65 to 89-year-olds find they have to struggle alone.
Pensioners may struggle with a range of tasks such as taking their medication, eating on their own, getting washed or getting in to the bath, getting dressed, going to the toilet or just getting out of bed on their own.
The Age UK study on ageing shows that 870, 000 older people between 65 and 89 now have unmet social care needs.
It noted the number of over 65s who were using social care services had dropped by 27.2 per cent - from 1,231,000 to 896,000 - between 2005/6 and 2012/13.
This is despite the age group growing by more than one million over the same period and a rising demand for this kind of support while the amount being spent on social care services for older people has fallen, Age UK argue.
A public consultation on a Care Act 2014, which means local authorities will have to follow new rules determining who is eligible for care, has begun. The Care Act is due to come into force in 2015.
Age UK’s charity director Caroline Abrahams described the Care Act as “fundamentally good legislation” but claimed that underfunding means increasing numbers of older people are being shut out of the care system.
She said: “It beggars belief that one in three older people who need some basic help with daily living are now having to do without it. And it is important to remember that the figures we analysed for this research only go up to age 89.
“It makes you wonder how many more thousands of people in their nineties are being left to struggle alone.”
“When older people begin to need some help with essential daily tasks like eating and washing they should expect that it will be there for them, yet it is increasingly beyond their reach.”