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.
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”
This guest blog was contributed by the Age Action Alliance.
Last week, a new kind of partnership came of age at Age UK. The Age Action Alliance – the network for partnership working and practical action to improve later life – celebrated its first anniversary with a ‘winter warmth’ themed Parliamentary reception.
It is just over a year since the Cabinet’s Social Justice Committee asked Age UK to help promote cross sector collaborative action on ageing, providing joint Secretariat with the Department for Work and Pensions. The Alliance is a vehicle to develop society’s response to demographic change, encouraging collaboration and recognising that there are areas where systemic success cannot be achieved by any single sector or organisation. Over 260 organisations are now members of this unique network. Continue reading “Guest blog – Working together to curb the cold weather”
“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”
This year as part of our Spread the Warmth campaign we are working with the Met Office, as part of the national Cold Weather Plan, to provide targeted information to the older people who are most at risk when a cold snap is imminent. This guest blog from the Met office sets out how the Cold Weather Plan will work:
Although winter weather and snow can be fun, they are also associated with an increase in illnesses and injuries. Severe cold weather can be dangerous for vulnerable groups such as older people and those with serious illnesses. Older people are particularly at risk as they do not feel the cold until their body temperature falls. With this in mind, the Met Office is working in partnership with the Department of Health and the Health Protection Agency again this year to provide the Cold Weather Alerts that inform the Cold Weather Plan for England.
Our Cold Weather Alert service operates in England from 1 November to 31
March every year. Met Office Cold Weather Alerts are sent to NHS Trusts in England, and Age UK centres, to ensure that staff and resources are ready for any cold weather periods and those who are more vulnerable to cold weather conditions are informed / made aware and prepared. Cold Weather Alerts are also issued on our website, via weather forecasts on TV and radio and also via our Twitter feed.
Continue reading “Guest Blog – Cold Weather Alerts 2012”