Older people worried about keeping warm this winter
Published on 12 November 2014 12:00 AM
Around 3.5 million older people worried about keeping warm at home this winter
Almost half of older people say increasing cost of energy is a major concern this winter
One in three (32%) older people are concerned about keeping their home adequately warm this coming winter, with the majority concerned about the high cost of energy (70%), according to new research from Age UK (i).
The research - published today to launch the Charity's Campaign for Warm Homes - clearly shows that high energy bills and fuel poverty, together with hard-to-heat, energy-inefficient homes are weighing heavily on the minds of older people. Around five million over-65s say escalating energy bills is one of their main concerns over the winter months (ii).
The Charity's newreportOlder, not colder (iii) outlines the shocking human cost and suffering the fuel poverty crisis is causing. Each winter, one older person dies every seven minutes from cold weather(iv) , and excess winter death rates and illness are highest among those living in the coldest homes (v) . Yet sadly, with just under one million older people living in fuel poverty(vi) , many simply cannot afford to heat their homes to a sufficient temperature in order to keep warm and well (vii) .
Many of these deaths and health problems could be prevented if everyone lived in a warm home. This is why Age UK's Campaign for Warm Homes is calling on the Government to commit to upgrading all homes to meet higher energy efficient standards (viii) . The Charity believes this is the only viable long-term solution to fuel poverty, rising energy prices and the resulting winter health problems. Age UK research also shows that two fifths (41%) of older people believe that the Government should do more to ensure UK homes are made more energy efficient, closely followed by energy companies (36%)(ix) .
Clearly there is a significant cost to an infrastructure project of this scale. Yet in addition to the high number of lives claimed by the fuel poverty crisis, there is also a financial price to pay in terms of increased pressure on local authorities, the NHS and the social care system. In fact, Age UK estimates that the cost of cold homes to the NHS is around £1.36bn every year (x) . An ambitious energy efficiency programme would not only save lives, it would also reduce associated hospital and care costs; lift millions out of fuel poverty; cut carbon dioxide emissions; stimulate the economy, and create thousands of jobs across the UK.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: 'The spectre of struggling to afford to heat their homes this winter is looming large in the minds of millions of older people. Increasing energy costs coupled with poorly insulated homes means the UK is fighting a losing battle against cold weather and it is very difficult for increasing numbers of people to properly protect themselves.
'The only long-term solution to this problem is an ambitious programme to bring all our housing up to a high energy efficiency standard. We realise a national infrastructure project of this scale would require major investment; but not only would it reduce illness and deaths among older people, it would also cut associated costs to the NHS, create jobs and growth and help future generations.
'No older person should worry that they could die from the cold in their own home. Fuel poverty is a national scandal which has claimed the lives of too many people - both old and young - for far too long and left many more suffering from preventable illness. We want a permanent solution and we believe it is within our grasp, if there is the necessary imagination and political will.'
Notes to editors
Age UK's new report Older, not colder - which includes some case studies who are available to speak to the media - is available as a PDF. Please contact Vicky Smith or Helen Spinney in the press office if you would like to receive a copy or speak to a case study.
To support the Campaign for Warm Homes, Age UK is calling on knitting enthusiasts to create their own cosy knitted warm houses, which will be exhibited by their local Age UK during Cold Homes Week (2-6 February 2015). We're also asking people to pledge their support for the campaign by filling in a postcard and sending it back to us at our FREEPOST address, so that we can communicate key campaign activity with our new supporters. For further details please contact Vicky Smith or Helen Spinney in the press office.
Age UK is part of the Energy Bill Revolution, an alliance of organisations and members of the public calling for warm homes and lower bills by improving the energy efficiency of our housing stock.
Age UK will be doing everything it can to help older people keep warm this winter by providing vulnerable older people with winter warmth kits, hot food, heat-saving home improvements and advice on staying warm. Age UK offers information and advice 365 days a year and older people and their families can call Age UK Advice free on 0800 169 65 65. The Charity is calling on people to help reduce the number of unnecessary deaths this winter by joining its campaign for warm homes or by making a donation. To donate as little as £5, or to find out more about how you can make a difference to our work visit www.spreadthewarmth.org.uk, call 0800 169 87 87.
iBased on TNS Winter Omnibus Survey of 1,303 UK adults aged 65 plus, October 2014. 32% said they were concerned about keeping warm this winter and of this group, 70% were most concerned about cost of energy.
iiNumber of people based on Office of National Statistics (ONS) Mid 2013 based population statistics for adults 65+ (ONS 2014). 34% of those questioned in the TNS Winter Omnibus Survey said they were concerned about falling over on slippery roads or pavements and 20% said they were concerned about not being able to get out and about so much because of shorter days, cold/bad weather.
iiiThe Age UK report Older, not colder is available as a PDF - please call the Age UK press office for a copy.
ivAge UK estimate, using a ten-year average 2003/4 to 2012/13, from Excess Winter Mortality in England and Wales, ONS, November 2013.
vMarmot Review Team (2011) The Health Impacts of Cold Homes and Fuel Poverty, Friends of the Earth and the Marmot Review Team.
viTrends in Fuel Poverty, England, 2003-2012, Table 4. Department of Energy & Climate Change, 2014.
viiCold temperatures can be very dangerous to older people's health as they not only increase the likelihood and severity of flu, chest infections and other respiratory problems but they also raise blood pressure which puts people at greater risk of heart attacks and strokes. Age UK recommends older people keep their living room at 21C and bedrooms at 18C overnight.
viiiAge UK's Campaign for Warm Homes is calling on the Government to commit to bringing at least two million low income households up to EPC Band C by 2020 and all households to an A or B rating by 2030.
ixBased on TNS Winter Omnibus Survey of 1,303 UK adults aged 65 plus, October 2014.
xBased on the method described in South East Regional Public Health Group Factsheet (2009) Health and Winter Warmth, which made use of a calculator produced by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health to estimate the total cost to the NHS in England arising from cold homes. Age UK updated its figure (£859 million) using 2011 household numbers estimates for England (Office for National Statistics) and the GDP deflator (from HM Treasury's website) to inflate the estimates to 2011/12 prices.
About Age UK
We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI and our local Age UK partners in England (together the Age UK Family). 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 believes that everyone should have the opportunity to make the most of later life, whatever their circumstances. We provide free information, advice and support to over six million people; commercial products and services to 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 well-being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle.
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).