Age UK is appealing to the public to keep supporting the older people in their lives and to stay in touch to ensure they are managing to keep warm and eat well, despite soaring prices.
The charity says that COVID-19 and other nasty winter bugs are circulating widely, and now, to cap it all, really cold temperatures are about to set in, at a time when we know lots of pensioners have been trying to reduce their energy usage in order to control their bills. And that’s not to mention the impact of strikes on public services and the possibility of energy blackouts further down the track.
Age UK’s most recent research into how people aged 60 and over were feeling about the coming winter showed:
54% of older people (8.8 million) say the cost-of-living increase will affect their health and care needs.
52% of older people (8.5 million) are concerned or very concerned about winter.
57% (9.3 million) are worried about very cold weather.
20% of older people (3.3 million) are worried that they will not be able to eat enough.
45% of older people (7.4 million) are worried that they won’t be able to heat their home enough
With energy bills rocketing it is understandable that many older people might think they have no option but to turn their heating off this winter. In fact, polling showed that 62% of older people have had to cut back on heating or powering their home recently to make ends meet. However, prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can have a substantial impact on older people’s health.
As we get older it becomes harder for our bodies to regulate temperature, and it takes longer to warm up as we lose muscle mass. Our immune systems become weaker, and symptoms of health conditions such as asthma, diabetes and arthritis can be worsened by the cold. The cold also impacts on the heart and circulatory system increasing risks of heart attacks and strokes. People with mental health conditions or dementia, which may reduce a person’s ability to look after themselves, can also be at more risk from the cold weather.
Caroline Abrahams, Age UK's Charity Director, said,
"We know that rising energy prices will put nearly a third of older households in fuel poverty this winter, meaning older people in approaching 3 million homes will be worrying about how to keep warm as temperatures plummet this week.
‘Unfortunately increases in the cost of living are coming hard on the heels of the pandemic, which severely undermined the health and wellbeing of many older people. And now some are telling us they simply don’t know how they will get through the difficult months to come. This really is shaping up to be a winter from hell.
‘During the winter older people are likely to spend more time at home than other age groups and are much more susceptible to the effects of the cold, particularly if they have pre-existing medical conditions. That’s why it’s so important that they can adequately heat their homes, helping them to stay well."