Italian hospital doctors have revealed that half their elderly and frail patients, who make up 70 per cent of the total being treated, would rather stay on in hospital than go home to a lonely and empty house with no-one to look after them. Seven out of ten of those who ask to stay on longer in hospital are men.

Italians are living longer and family structures have altered, with more of the elderly living alone than ever before. In Rome the city council social services department has started a scheme to help the elderly when they are released from hospital. Before leaving hospital elderly patients are visited by a team of local health and social workers that tries to assess the patients needs and then provide the necessary assistance. Rome, which has a population of nearly 3 million, has over a million residents over the age of 65.