Two thirds of the baby boom generation have made no provision for their future care, despite warnings that care homes cost an average of 21,000 pounds a year, a charity says.
A survey for Help the Aged said 62 percent of people aged between 45 and 65 have no plans to cope if they need care in later life.
Nearly half said they would sell their house if they needed to pay for a place in a home.
A fifth of 942 people questioned said life is too short to worry about what may happen when they are elderly.
People are deluding themselves if they think that it will never happen to them, said Jonathan Ellis, senior policy manager at Help the Aged. Many people feel let down by the very system meant to help them.
The survey highlights widespread confusion over who will pay if they are forced into a care home, where charges average 400 pounds a week.
Many baby boomers people born during a period of higher birth rates after World War Two are unaware of the looming expenses, the survey suggests.
One in 10 aged between 61 and 65 thinks the government will pick up the whole bill. One in five people say they expect to rely on their relatives to help pay the bills.
There is no state help for anyone with savings of 21,000 pounds or more, including the value of their home.
Help the Aged urged the government to raise this limit and scrap the complex and undignified means testing system, which forces many older people to sell their homes.
It said confusion surrounds the current system because social care is free for people classed as needing healthcare.
There are inconsistencies throughout the country, Ellis said.