Excess Winter Deaths

In the winter of 2011/12, there were 24,000 Excess Winter Deaths in England and Wales (of which 21,700 were people over 65). By way of comparison, this shocking figure dwarfs the 1,715 people killed on roads in England and Wales in 2011.

True, the figures show a fall on last year, which in turn was a fall on the gristly winter of 2009/10. In fact, amongst the very vulnerable group of older people over 75, there was actually an increase.   But the figures go up and down each year, and it is too early to see long term trends. They are simply far too high to feel anything but shame for this country’s deplorable record on supporting its older citizens to cope with the cold.178x178_spread_the_warmth

The problem of coping with the cold is primarily an issue of housing. Broadly speaking, the older the house the more likely it is to be thermally inefficient, and the more expensive it will be to keep adequately warm.   The proportion of our housing stock built before 1919 is 22%:  a further 17% was built between 1919 and 1944. The work on insulating these homes and equipping them with modern, energy efficient heating systems has been very slow, and we have watched the numbers in fuel poverty rising remorselessly over the last eight years as energy prices have spiralled upwards. Continue reading “Excess Winter Deaths”

The Cost of Cold

“When I was young, being cold wasn’t an issue, it never occurred to me it could be a problem. But as I’ve got older staying warm has become my priority. Being older, and less active, it’s so hard to ward off the cold.” Dreda, 94

Winter brings many challenges for us as we get older – dark days mean people get out less, and ice and snow can increase the fear and risk of falling. But research shows that cold is the biggest killer.

Today, Age UK is releasing a new report ‘The Cost of Cold’. It highlights the fact that each winter there are around 27,000 additional deaths in England and Wales, the vast majority among older people.

For each death, there are many more people who become seriously ill, needing hospitalisation in the short term and possibly social care in the longer term. Age UK’s new analysis finds that the cost to the NHS in England from cold homes alone is likely to be around £1.36 billion a year.

Every death or serious illness is a personal tragedy for the individual and family involved – and these deaths are largely preventable. Other colder countries such as Finland have significantly lower death rates, due to better insulated homes and greater awareness of the need to keep warm.

Through our Spread the Warmth campaign, we are highlighting simple steps that older people can take to keep warm and protect their own health, such as keeping their bedroom windows closed at night, or covering their face and hands when out in the cold. Thanks to our partnership with the Met Office we are able to pass on the Cold Weather alerts to older people via our local Age UK partners throughout the winter. Continue reading “The Cost of Cold”