FEWER people over 65 died in Wales last winter than during the winter of 2008/2009, according to figures released today (23 November) by the Office for National Statistics.
1,500 over 65s died in Wales last winter, compared with 2,230 the previous winter – a 32 per cent drop in so-called ‘excess winter deaths’.
Older people’s charity Age Cymru has given the news a mixed response.
The charity’s Health Initiatives Officer, Rhian Pearce says:
“Age Cymru is relieved there was a significant drop in excess winter deaths among over 65s last winter, particularly as it was such a harsh winter.
“However we cannot forget that there were 1,500 excess winter deaths among over 65s in Wales last winter and action is needed to tackle the factors that contributed to these fatalities.
“Fuel poverty is a leading cause of excess winter deaths and is a significant and growing problem in Wales, with an estimated 320,000 households spending more than 10 per cent of their income on energy.
“To combat fuel poverty amongst older people there must be a coordinated programme of action which seeks to increase people’s incomes in retirement, tackle rising energy bills and increase the warmth and energy efficiency of people’s homes.
“With energy bills increasing again this winter and the average household energy bill now exceeding £1,200, the UK and Welsh Assembly Governments must work together to ensure that older people no longer have to make the stark choice between heating and eating during the winter months.”
Age Cymru coordinates the Keep Well this Winter programme and it has five top tips for keeping warm and well during the winter months.
Rhian Pearce says:
“These top tips are some of the best ways to keep your home warm, keep on top of your bills, and keep healthy. Some may seem obvious, but they could help you stay warmer throughout winter.”
1. Heat your home well
Keep your rooms heated to a temperature between 18º - 21º C (64º - 70º F). Switch your heating to come on just before you get up and switch off after you’ve gone to bed. If it’s very cold, set your heating to come on earlier and turn off later rather than turning the thermostat up. If you feel cold at night, use a hot water bottle or electric blanket – but never use both together.
2. Dress well for warmth
Several thin layers of clothing will keep you warmer than one thick layer. Clothes made from wool, cotton or fleecy synthetic fabrics are best. If you can, stay indoors when it’s very cold, but if you have to go out, wrap up warmly and remember to wear a hat as you can lose a lot of heat through your head.
3. Get financial support
There are grants and sources of advice available to make your home more energy efficient, such as the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (call 0800 316 2815). It’s worthwhile claiming all of the benefits you are eligible to claim. Your local Age Concern may be able to help you identify and apply for any extra money that you are entitled to. Age UK Advice –which you can contact on 0800 169 65 65, can also provide information about extra money you might be able to claim.
4. Eat well
Food is a vital source of energy, which helps to keep your body warm. Try to make sure you have hot meals and drinks regularly throughout the day.
5. Get a flu jab
You can get a free flu jab from your GP if you are over 65, have a long-term health condition, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person. For more info on how to keep warm, well and safe in winter visit the Keep Well this Winter website www.kwtw.org.uk