Age UK calls on everyone to look out for their older family members, neighbours and friends following the three recent storms
Published on 23 February 2022 12:59 PM
With the weekend’s unprecedented storms leaving tens of thousands of people without power and others facing flooding, Age UK appeals to the public to look out for the older people in their lives who may need extra support
Winter is always a tough time for older people, but this weekend’s unprecedented 80 mile an hour winds have caused days of chaos and left thousands without power or facing the horror of floods in their local area. These adverse circumstances can be especially difficult for older people to cope with if they are unwell, causing them anxiety and distress and, in some cases, putting their health and wellbeing at real risk.
With further disruption from strong winds and flooding having hit on Monday, particularly in the north of the country, Age UK is calling on everyone to reach out to support our older family members, neighbours and friends at a time of need.
Caroline Abrahams, Age UK's Charity Director, said: "The storms and floods sweeping across the country have wreaked havoc for many older people and left some in vulnerable situations. Older people are typically unwilling to make a fuss, but this is inevitably an anxious and difficult time for many so the more practical and emotional support we can offer the better.
"Winter is always difficult for many older people, because of the cold weather and dark nights, and the knock-on impacts on their physical and mental health. But this winter is something else entirely: approaching two years into the pandemic we're all at a low ebb and the last thing any of us need is more stress and disruption. For some older people, being flooded, incurring damage to their property, or having to cope for hours or days with no power must really feel like the last straw.
“That’s why we need to rally round to offer practical and emotional support to any older person who needs it this week, after Storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin have done their worst. The emergency services and charities like local Age UKs are doing a brilliant job in the places that are badly affected, but there’s always room for a friendly phone call or visit from a friend or relative to cheer an older person up. It’s not only those who are directly affected by the storms who may value us reaching out, but also anyone who is struggling with their physical or mental health after the trauma of the pandemic. We know that significant numbers of older people are pretty low at the moment, because of everything COVID-19 has thrown at them. Now is not the time to dial down our support.”
Age UK’s latest research on the impact the pandemic has already had on older people found that winter is a particularly worrying and anxious time for many older people, with:
- 2.1 million older people (13%) saying they need more support during the winter months.
- 3.1 million older people (19%) find it harder to manage their health conditions during the winter months.
- 2 million older people (12%) find it harder to look after themselves during the winter months.
- 3.9 million older people (24%) say they feel more lonely in the winter months.
- 1.5 million older people (9%) say they struggle to stay warm and 650,000 older people (4%) say they are not able to eat well in the winter months.
- 6.7 million older people (41%) find it harder to stay active in winter.
Throughout our research it’s clear that older people living with long term health conditions or care needs and those living in the least advantaged circumstances are most likely to say they are struggling.
- 15% of people in the least advantaged groups said they found it harder to look after themselves during winter (compared to 9% in the most advantaged groups).
- 20% of older people with long term health conditions found it harder to manage (compared to 7% of those without).
While older carers and older people from black and ethnic minority groups were more likely to report needing more support.
- 19% of older people from Black, Asian and Minority ethnic communities said they need more support in winter (compared to 12% of white older people).
- 18% of older carers said they needed more support (compared to 12% of people without caring responsibilities).
Age UK suggests a few simple steps to help make sure the older friends and family in our lives stay safer during this spell of unprecedented weather:
Make sure the older people in your life know you’re there for them
It can be harder to get out and about in severe weather under normal circumstances, and coronavirus has made it all the more difficult for many older people. Simple steps can really help support someone and even reduce loneliness and isolation.
- Staying in touch can make a big difference to the older people in your life. A phone call or online chat, or sending a card or gift are all great ways to help lift all our spirits.
- Offer a hand around the home or collecting shopping or medication, particularly if someone is isolating or worried about going out.
- Give out these useful numbers: For practical information and advice, Age UK Advice: 0800 169 65 65. For a cheerful chat, day or night, The Silver Line Helpline: 0800 4 70 80 90
Some things to keep in mind to prepare for severe weather:
- Keep an eye on the weather forecast. You can watch it here https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/ or download the Met Office App for up-to-date weather at your fingertips.
- Monitor flood risks in your area through TV and (local) radio, and the Environment Agency’s Floodline Warnings Direct service or call 0345 988 1188. This also offers a personalised flood warning service. Call 105, a free number, to find information during a power cut.
- Write down or print emergency contact numbers, including your fire and rescue service, local authority flood services, local Age UK, energy, water and phone suppliers and distributors, and insurer. Put them somewhere you will remember and can easily access, e.g. by your fridge, phone or door.
- Check in on older neighbours and relatives who live alone, are ill or with mobility problems or those particularly at risk, who rely on an oxygen machine or stairlift, as well as those with long-standing illnesses and difficulties who can’t easily get out of the house. Those who live alone should sign up to your energy distributor’s Priority Services Register to receive additional help in a power cut. There is more information available here: www.ofgem.gov.uk/information-consumers/energy-advice-households/getting-extra-help-priority-services-register
- If bad weather is forecast, make sure you have everything you need. Check you've got enough medication and food in case it's harder to leave the house. A bottle of water could be handy if the water supply is interrupted.
- Have torches handy around the home in case of a power cut. And some spare batteries too!
- Take extra care if the ground is slippery. Wear shoes with good grip and consider keeping salt and sand mixture handy to grit paths. You could ask your neighbours for help to clear paths or driveways clear in bad weather – most people are more than happy to help.
- Plan ahead when driving. Try to avoid going out in the car in bad weather if possible, and make sure you follow advice on driving conditions near you. If you do need to go out, pack up the following kit in case you get stuck: blankets, a bottle of water or flask of hot drink, some snacks, a shovel, a de-icer or scraper, a mobile phone and charger.
Age UK’s report ‘Older people and power loss, floods and storms’ gives a valuable insight into older people’s experiences and their fears about being without power for days, having their home flooded or being hit by a major storm. We want to share our learning to help the Government, energy companies, care providers and others better understand older people’s lives and strengthen the protection and support for them. Let’s make sure we’re ready when the next crisis hits.
Helping Age UK to help older people this and every winter
Winter can be one of the toughest and most challenging times of year for older people. The increased isolation and illness that older people can experience during the darker, colder months, are exacerbated by the weather and many have no one to turn to for help.
Age UK needs urgent funds so that it can continue offering services like its free and confidential Advice Line and Telephone Friendship Services, which are invaluable lifelines to older people in crisis. To donate visit www.ageuk.org.uk/winter-appeal.
Anyone who needs support, is worried about an older relative or friend, or wants to find out more about Age UK’s Telephone Friendship Services can get in touch by calling the Age UK Advice Line free of charge on 0800 169 6565 (8am-7pm) or visit www.ageuk.org.uk. Any older person looking for a cheerful chat can call The Silver Line’s free helpline, day or night, on 0800 4 70 80 90.
The source for figures in this press release is online polling conducted on the Research Express Online Omnibus by Kantar Polling between 31 August 2021 and 13 September 2021, of 1,598 people aged 60+ in the UK. Figures from the polling were scaled up to the UK age 60+ population using ONS mid-year population estimates.