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No help or company for 3.5 million older people

Published on 15 November 2012 12:30 AM

Age UK and Dame Helen Mirren call on the nation to come together to prevent older people suffering needlessly this winter

3.5 million people aged 65+ in the UK are not getting any help, support or companionship from neighbours,(1) according to new research out today to mark the launch of Age UK's Spread the Warmth winter campaign.

The winter can be harrowingly difficult for thousands of older people. Age UK is calling on everyone to remember the Great British spirit celebrated in the summer by coming together throughout the winter months and pledging to help older people in the local community.

The colder weather brings with it a massive increase in associated health problems for older people including heart attacks and strokes, respiratory problems, pneumonia and depression. During the winter, isolation can also intensify having an adverse effect on physical and mental well-being and some studies prove that feelings of loneliness can this can be equivalent to well-established risk factors such as obesity and smoking.(2) Over 700,000 older people in the UK report that they always or often feel lonely(3) with over half of all older people considering the TV as their main form of company.(4)

New research also reveals that over 700,000 (7%) older people don't know their neighbours.(5) The top reasons holding older people back from getting to know those who live nearby include not wanting to be a burden and thinking that their neighbours always seem to be busy.(6)

By pledging to help out this winter and in donating to Age UK's Spread the Warmth campaign, people can make winter time less worrying for thousands upon thousands of older people. Age UK's research reveals that over 3.5 million (35%) people aged 65+ are concerned about staying warm at home.(7) As the cold weather and shorter days kick in, people find it more difficult to get out and about with nearly 4.5 million (43%) people aged 65+ are concerned about falling over on slippery pavements(8) and just over 2 million (21%) state they are worried about not being able to get out and about as much.(9)

If everyone acts now, this winter can be very different for older people. Simply make a Big Winter Pledge with Age UK to make a real difference

Pledge 1: Pop in and see an older friend, relative or neighbour regularly

Pledge 2: Do your bit to help out when the colder weather hits, from clearing paths to getting the shopping in for an older neighbour

Pledge 3: Donate money to Age UK today by calling 0800 169 87 87 or visiting opens link in new window Just £10 could fund an emergency winter warmth pack*

Pledge 4: Get a free thermometer and ‘Winter Wrapped Up' advice guide from Age UK by calling 0800 169 65 65 and pass on to an older friend, neighbour or relative

Pledge 5: Volunteer for Age UK and local Age UKs across the country. Contact your local Age UK for more information or visit Get involved or call 0800 169 87 87

People can spread the word on how they are helping to Spread the Warmth by putting their pledge into practice to help older people this winter - tweet about it using #spreadthewarmth or drop by the Age UK Facebook page opens link in new window

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General of Age UK, said: 'The winter can cause misery, avoidable illness and even death for too many older people. We're hoping to inspire everyone to act now to do their bit to lessen the impact of winter for older people this year. There is something simple that everyone can do from popping in to check on an older neighbour to making time for older relatives. As we experienced as a nation this summer, it feels good to come together and help each other out. Small things and a friendly face make all the difference.'

Classic British actress Dame Helen Mirren said: 'It's shocking that so many older people die needlessly in the winter months. I'm supporting Age UK's Big Winter Pledge by spreading the word about the importance of keeping warm this winter - whether that's layering up when we go out or keeping our living rooms at 21 degrees and bedrooms at 18 degrees. I'd urge everyone to get stuck in this winter and help out older friends, neighbours and relatives with Age UK.'

This winter as many as 25,000 older people could die needlessly because of the cold. That's around 200 preventable deaths a day.(10) During the Spread the Warmth campaign, Age UK and its local and national partners are working to keep older people warm and well. The charity is providing social activities and contact for older people, as well as tips on combating the cold at home and outdoors. Age UK will be keeping people warm and safe at home, giving out hot nutritious meals and offering information and advice 365 days a year. The charity is also calling on the Government to boost the energy efficiency of older people's homes.

Older people and their families can call Age UK Advice for free on 0800 169 65 65, where they can also order a free copy of ‘Winter Wrapped Up' with a free thermometer.  Alternatively they can visit opens link in new window to download the guide, get more information about the Spread the Warmth campaign and find out where their local Age UK office or shop is. There are lots of ways to help Age UK Spread the Warmth this winter. People can make a donation simply by calling 0800 169 87 87 or visiting opens link in new window


Notes to editors

Media contact: Sarah Scott
Telephone: 020 3033 1434
Out of hours: 07071 243 243

Winter Omnibus Survey by TNS Omnibus was compiled on behalf of Age UK and ran from 24-30 October 2012 to a contact sample of c.1034 adults aged 65+ across the UK. The data is weighted to be representative of the UK population. Estimated numbers of people: grossed figures, using mid-2010 Population Estimates for the UK, Office for National Statistics, June 2011.

*An Age UK emergency winter warmth pack provides an older person with cans of soup, a warm blanket and emergency contact details.

(1) 34% of older people: TNS Winter Omnibus Survey for Age UK (Oct 2012). Population figures for the UK are estimates based on mid-2010  population estimates, ONS 2011, using the figure of 10,304,600 people aged 65 or over in the UK

(2) For instance,  Holt-Lunstad, Smith, & Layton; PLoS Medicine, 2010 and Loneliness and pathways to disease, Hawkley* and  Cacioppo, 2003

(3) ICM Research: Christmas and Laughter Survey for Age UK (November 2011), 65+ (1,049 UK)

(4) ICM Research survey for Age UK, December 2009

(5) TNS Winter Omnibus Survey for Age UK (Oct 2012)

(6) Of those respondents who wish they had more to do with their neighbours - 23% don't want to be a burden and 47% thought neighbours always seemed to be so busy: Winter Omnibus Survey

(7) TNS Winter Omnibus Survey for Age UK (Oct 2012)

(8) TNS Winter Omnibus Survey for Age UK (Oct 2012)

(9) TNS Winter Omnibus Survey for Age UK (Oct 2012)

(10) Estimates based on five and ten-year averages of excess winter mortality for people aged 65 or over, ONS Excess Winter Mortality statistics 2001-11

Age UK
For media enquiries relating to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland please contact the appropriate national office: Age Scotland on 0131 668 8055, Age Cymru on 029 2043 1562 and Age NI on 028 9024 5729.

Age UK is the new force combining Age Concern and Help the Aged, dedicated to improving later life.

We provide free information, advice and support to over six million people; commercial products and services to well over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and wellbeing, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle. We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI (together the Age UK Family), our local Age UK partners in England and local Age Concerns. We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we").  Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).

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Last updated: Oct 06 2017

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