Shockingly, 24,000 older people in England and Wales may not survive the cold weather this winter – that’s 200 deaths a day that could be prevented.
Cold 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, contrary to public belief.
The cold weather can worsen arthritis and result in people having more accidents around the home, due to loss of strength and movement in your hands. It also increases the likelihood of chest infections and can cause problems for people with breathing difficulties such as asthma.
As we get older, it gets harder for our bodies to detect how cold we are. This is because we become less efficient at responding to and recovering from exposure to the cold.
Protect your health
The good news is that there are simple steps you can take to protect your health and the health of older people you know this winter:
• Keep your living room temperature at 70⁰F (21⁰C)
• Keep bedroom at 65⁰F (18⁰C)
• Keep your bedroom window closed at night when the weather is cold
These temperatures are based on the World Health Organisation’s recommendations. If you still feel cold with these temperatures, you should raise the temperature of your thermostat until you feel comfortable.
Keeping warm in winter is so important, but with rising energy prices and falling temperatures, many older people have told us they find it a real challenge. More than a million older people in England can’t afford to heat their homes.
One of the main causes of cold homes in the UK is poor insulation, with some of the worst levels of home energy efficiency in Europe. In a badly insulated home, you end up paying for heat which simply leaks out of the walls, doors, windows and roof. But modern technology means that with proper energy efficiency measures nearly all homes could be made much warmer and cheaper to heat.
The Government could invest in making millions of homes much more energy efficient using the money it is already receiving in carbon taxes. This would be enough to pay for energy efficiency measures in at least 9 million homes over the next 15 years.
Without this investment, cold homes will go on being a major problem each winter, with older people forced to bear the brunt of the cold weather.
We want you to tell your MP we need warm homes. The simplest way to do this is to visit our Spread the Warmth hub. You can find out more about the campaign and why it’s so important to add your voice to it.
Age UK’s Winter wrapped up guide can help you stay warm, healthy and as comfortable as possible this winter. Another great resource is Age UK’s Recipes for a warmer winter booklet, which is full of warming and delicious winter recipes.
To order free copies of these resources, call Age UK Advice free on 0800 169 65 65.