DORSET has almost 17,000 elderly people living with someone of working age which experts warn could expose them to an increased risk of catching coronavirus.

The Government advises anyone aged 70 or over to be “particularly stringent” in following social distancing measures, as they are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19.

But residing with people of working age may bring challenges, charities and scientists have warned, as younger people are still allowed outdoors for essential trips.

New figures from the Office for National Statistics show 12 per cent of people aged 70 plus in the Dorset Council area (9,283)live with one or more people of working age – those aged between 16 and State Pension age.

In Bournemouth there are 4,814 - 16 per cent - and in Poole, 2,552, 10 per cent.

The national average is 15 per cent.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “Staying safe in multi-generational households is challenging but also incredibly important, especially if the older person already has significant health issues.

“In the end it’s about being really cautious and exercising your common sense – that’s the best way of keeping the virus at bay and ensuring everyone remains fit and well.”

She encouraged young and old people living together to ensure they keep their distance from each other, disinfect doorknobs and other surfaces, and follow hand washing advice, particularly after returning home.

Coronavirus:Who is supporting the elderly?

Across the UK, 1.3 million people aged 70 or over live in multi-generational households.

The London borough of Lambeth has the highest proportion of all, with 45 per cent of those aged 70 or over living with someone aged between 16 and the State Pension age.

​In the South West, the average rate is 14 per cent – ​compared to 24 per cent in London.

Neil O’Brien, a Conservative MP in the Midlands who requested the data, said people in their 70s should completely self-isolate where possible, and rely on help to get food and medicine delivered.

He warned families living with them to take “extreme care” by socially distancing even more than the rest of the population, and not going out unless absolutely essential.

He added: “I know this sounds really intense, but it could save the life of your loved ones in the coming weeks.”

Jennifer Dowd, an Oxford University epidemiologist, said a combination of high rates of co-residence along with a high proportion of older people would lead to a large number of coronavirus cases – which could explain why Italy has been so badly affected.

She said: “I think in general that more contact between younger and older generations through co-residence would be expected to speed up transmission from working age populations to older more vulnerable groups, who are then more likely to have serious symptoms and show up as cases right now.”