With temperatures starting to drop, frostier mornings and even the possibility of snow in the air, winter is finally upon us. We all cope with the cold weather differently – some people even enjoy it – but for many older people, it can be life-threatening.
It may come as a shock to find out that nearly 41,000 older people died because of the cold weather in 2014-15. These were all excess winter deaths which could have been prevented.
Older people are particularly vulnerable to problems caused by the cold weather. A combination of poorly insulated homes, high fuel bills, and living on tight fixed incomes means many older people can find it hard to heat their homes and stay warm. According to Age UK’s new report Still Cold, 1 million older people live in fuel poverty.
The current definition of fuel poverty is when a household’s income falls below the poverty line after the amount they need to spend to keep warm is deducted. Those living in fuel poverty face tough choices in the winter, like choosing which room they can afford to heat, or choosing between heating or eating.
Living in a cold home causes a number of health problems and raises the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Indeed, Age UK research estimates that cold homes cost the NHS around £1.36bn every year because of the impact they have on people’s health.
Due to the seriousness of this issue, Age UK produces lots of information and advice for older people to help them stay warm and well in winter. Our free information guides Winter wrapped up and Save energy pay less offer useful suggestions on how older people can tackle some of the problems they might face in the cold weather.
Winter wrapped up gives information on preparing for winter, how to stay well during the cold months, and financial support people may be eligible for. It also debunks some of the common myths people may believe, such as: “I’ve heard keeping my bedroom window open at night is good for my health.”
The guide also contains a useful room thermometer, which can be used to check the temperature against the recommended temperatures of 18°C (64°F) for a bedroom and 21°C (70°F) for a living room.
Save energy pay less gives lots of useful suggestions about saving energy in the home, from quick and easy (and cheap) ways to save energy through to how to use your heating controls effectively. It also looks at larger, more expensive changes that could make a home warmer and more energy efficient.
The majority of energy customers in the UK are on the most expensive ‘standard’ energy tariffs, which means they could be paying hundreds of pounds more for their energy than they have to. Save energy pay less contains information about switching energy supplier and getting the best tariff to help people make the savings that could allow them to heat their home properly.
We want to help everyone love later life, and that includes being able to stay warm and well in winter. You can download our free guides and read more about winter health and saving energy on the Age UK website.