One in three (32%) older people are concerned about keeping their home adequately warm this coming winter, with the majority concerned about the high cost of energy (70%), according to new research from Age UK.
The research – published today to launch the Charity’s Campaign for Warm Homes – clearly shows that high energy bills and fuel poverty, together with hard-to-heat, energy-inefficient homes are weighing heavily on the minds of older people. Around five million over-65s say escalating energy bills is one of their main concerns over the winter months.
The Charity’s new Older, not colder report outlines the shocking human cost and suffering the fuel poverty crisis is causing. Each winter, one older person dies every seven minutes from cold weather, and excess winter death rates and illness are highest among those living in the coldest homes.
Yet sadly, with just under one million older people living in fuel poverty, many simply cannot afford to heat their homes to a sufficient temperature in order to keep warm and well. Many of these deaths and health problems could be prevented if everyone lived in a warm home.
This is why Age UK’s Campaign for Warm Homes is calling on the Government to commit to upgrading all homes to meet higher energy efficient standards.
The Charity believes this is the only viable long-term solution to fuel poverty, rising energy prices and the resulting winter health problems. Age UK research also shows that two fifths (41%) of older people believe that the Government should do more to ensure UK homes are made more energy efficient, closely followed by energy companies (36%).
Clearly there is a significant cost to an infrastructure project of this scale. Yet in addition to the high number of lives claimed by the fuel poverty crisis, there is also a financial price to pay in terms of increased pressure on local authorities, the NHS and the social care system. In fact, Age UK estimates that the cost of cold homes to the NHS is around £1.36bn every year.
An ambitious energy efficiency programme would not only save lives, it would also reduce associated hospital and care costs; lift millions out of fuel poverty; cut carbon dioxide emissions; stimulate the economy, and create thousands of jobs across the UK.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “The spectre of struggling to afford to heat their homes this winter is looming large in the minds of millions of older people. Increasing energy costs coupled with poorly insulated homes means the UK is fighting a losing battle against cold weather and it is very difficult for increasing numbers of people to properly protect themselves.
“The only long-term solution to this problem is an ambitious programme to bring all our housing up to a high energy efficiency standard. We realise a national infrastructure project of this scale would require major investment; but not only would it reduce illness and deaths among older people, it would also cut associated costs to the NHS, create jobs and growth and help future generations.
“No older person should worry that they could die from the cold in their own home. Fuel poverty is a national scandal which has claimed the lives of too many people – both old and young – for far too long and left many more suffering from preventable illness. We want a permanent solution and we believe it is within our grasp, if there is the necessary imagination and political will.”
To donate as little as £5, or to find out more about how you can make a difference to our work visit www.spreadthewarmth.org.uk, call 0800 169 87 87.