How would you describe a typical 75-year-old? If you believe some of the prevailing stereotypes, then you might guess at ‘passive’, ‘frail’ and ‘home-bound’. But in many cases, descriptions like these are way off the mark.

We know that younger people are often called ‘old before their time’ or ‘wise beyond their years’. So it shouldn't be such a surprise that older people can be much younger, physically and mentally, than their numerical age might suggest.

Healthcare professionals are increasingly looking at people’s biological age (how well their bodies and minds are functioning) rather than their chronological age (their actual age in numbers). This is something we discuss in our brand new booklet Cancer and older people, which emphasises that whether you’re 21 or 81, you should receive the same standard of care and support if you have cancer.

Inspiring confidence

Our new booklet aims to give older people the confidence to ask questions about cancer and help them understand what their rights are. It ties in with Macmillan’s Age old excuse campaign, which seeks to highlight the fact that many of the 1.2 million older people living with or beyond cancer are not receiving adequate care and support. For example, research* shows that:

  • many older people are under-treated
  • older people are less likely to receive intensive investigation and treatment
  • fewer older people receive information from hospital staff about financial help and benefits.


While many older people are looked after well, sadly this is not always the case. We want older people to know what they should expect – so that if they receive anything less, they know that they have a right to speak up about it.

Barriers to information

There are some barriers to reaching older people with information about cancer.

For example, they may:

  • have poorer eyesight
  • have hearing difficulties
  • not use the internet (only 40% of those aged 65+ use the internet, compared with 76% of those under 65*). Although the Silver surfers group on this website goes to show there’s a growing community of older people online.


Our new booklet uses large print text to ensure the information is accessible for people with poorer eyesight. Our audio CDs (such as The cancer guide) are also a great way for older people with eyesight difficulties to access information.

Age UK and the Older People’s Advocacy Alliance (OPAAL) have had input into our new booklet to make sure it’s suitable for an older audience and meets their needs.

Order it now

Cancer and older people is available to order now from be.Macmillan and you can also read this information online. We hope you and anyone you know finds it useful.

Most cases of cancer (63% in the UK) are diagnosed in people aged 65 or above. So it’s vital that this age group is provided with the information, care and support they need – every step of the way.

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* Macmillan Cancer Support. Rich picture on older people with cancer. 2012. Macmillan Cancer Support, London.