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As the snow falls in northern areas Age UK calls on everyone to look out for their older family members and friends this wintertime

Published on 08 February 2024 02:00 PM

44% of over-50s, equivalent to 11.3 million people overall, said they were concerned or very concerned about this winter.

Every winter is challenging for older people and this year is already proving to be a particularly tough one with steep energy and food prices posing an additional threat for those on low and modest incomes.  Winter bugs are circulating widely too, and with cold temperatures and snow falling in some areas we urge everyone to look out for older friends and family.

Age UK’s latest report, which is part of the Charity’s Spread the Warmth campaign, shows the extent to which winter and these challenges are having serious impacts on people aged 50 and over and their wellbeing. The results showed[i]:

  • More than two in five (44%) over-50s, equivalent to 11.3 million people overall, said they were concerned or very concerned about this winter.
  • Women (50%), those aged 50-59 (51%), from more disadvantaged groups (51%), from minoritised ethnic groups (53%), living with long term health conditions (57%), and unpaid carers (51%) were all more concerned than their counterparts.

We know lots of older people are reducing their energy use in order to control their bills, but cold weather can have serious consequences for older people’s health, and anyone with pre-existing illnesses is particularly at risk. Older people with lung conditions in the cold weather are likely to find themselves short of breath and coughing more. Pain and other symptoms of health conditions can all be made worse by the cold.  Immune system function also decreases with age, making older people more susceptible to circulating winter viruses, and more likely to become seriously ill as a result. The risk of falls also increases in wet or icy conditions.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “This winter there are so many challenges and we urge everyone to take care so they don't fall foul of the cold. Snow, storms and floods, the cost of living crisis and an NHS buckling under the pressure of high demand make it vital that older people stay as fit, warm and well as they can. We all have a part to play in this by looking out for the older people around us, especially if they are living with serious health conditions or are short of local support. 

"With much of the north seeing snow today we are urging older people to do all they can to keep warm and safe. High energy bills and food prices mean it is understandable that some may think they have to cut back on food and turn their heating off, but prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can have a serious impact on their health, especially if they are already managing existing illnesses.  As we get older our bodies find it harder to adjust to big changes in temperature, particularly if we are also coping with ill health or mobility issues. The cold raises blood pressure, which in turn increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

“Having plenty of hot food and drinks throughout the day can help keep the health risks of the cold at bay, as can taking simple precautions such as wrapping up warm when going outside and sleeping with the windows closed at night. 

“Now is also the time for us all to keep a friendly eye on older relatives, friends and neighbours. Offering to bring in some shopping or pick up medicines from the pharmacy can be a real help, allowing an older person to stay indoors and away from slippery pavements. If you are concerned about an older friend or relative, or you are an older person who is worried about paying for food or energy bills, please get in touch with Age UK because help may well be available. Please call us on 0800 169 65 65, visit the Cost of Living hub on Age UK’s website, or follow this link:”.

Age UK’s Spread the Warmth campaign is raising awareness of the challenges facing older people this winter, and the many ways the public can offer their support. Whether that’s helping an older person with their shopping, giving your old winter coat to one of Age UK’s shops, or donating to the Charity, or your local Age UK, so that it can continue to run vital support services, there are many things we can all do to help spread the warmth and keep older people warm and well this winter. To find out more visit


Top Tips – which may seem obvious but that still bear repeating.

1. Ask older people to heat their home to a steady temperature throughout the day and night - at least 18°C (64°F) is recommended - and wear suitable clothing. It is also best to keep bedroom windows shut on a winter’s night.
2. Reach out to support older relatives, friends and neighbours, especially if they are on their own.

  1. 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 your water supply is interrupted.
  2. Have torches handy around the home in case of a power cut. And some spare batteries too!
  3. Keep emergency numbers nearby. Call 105 in the event of a power cut – you can report a power cut and get information and advice if there is one in your area. You can also register with your supplier, so they'll call you in the event of an outage.
  4. 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 if there’s lying snow – most people are more than happy to help.
  5. 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 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.

Make sure the older people in your life know you’re there for them this winter.

  • 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 bringing in provisions, particularly if someone is isolated 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


  • It’s important to check that you are getting all the financial support to which you are entitled. This winter there is additional support in place for everyone and also specific support for which some older people will be eligible, depending on their circumstances. You can find more information on Age UK’s website here or call our helpline 0800 169 65 65. There is also more detailed information available on our Help with heating costs factsheet.
  • If you contact your water and power suppliers you may be eligible to be on the Priority Services Register, a free support service that helps people in vulnerable situations.

To donate and to find out more about how you can get involved, visit: Anyone who needs support can call 0800 169 6565.


[i] Spread the Warmth

Additional reference: Age UK Polling: Kantar Research Express conducted an online self completion survey between 7th September 2023 and 21st September 2023 amongst 2,621 adults in the UK aged 50+.


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Last updated: Mar 01 2024

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