Charity warns that urgent action is needed to prevent tens of thousands dying unnecessarily every year because of cold homes
New figures released by the ONS show that there were 18,200 excess winter deaths last year from cold-related illness such as heart attacks and strokes.
Although the overall number of deaths has gone down from the previous winter, the vast majority of these deaths were among older people, with a deeply troubling 15,900 in the over-65 age group. Over the last ten years a staggering quarter of a million older people have died from the cold –1 older person every 7 minutes. Also the average winter temperature was nearly double last year.
Responding to the figures, Age UK’s Charity Director, Caroline Abrahams, said: ‘It is truly shocking that thousands of older people are dying unnecessarily every winter because they cannot afford to keep warm. This is a national disgrace and a damning indictment of our failure to tackle the root cause of the problem: cold, energy-inefficient homes.
‘Fewer older people died last year compared to recent years but the winter was exceptionally mild: we must not be complacent about the cold homes which cause so many deaths among older people because who knows how bad this and future winters will be.
‘The sad fact is that many of these deaths could have been prevented. Cold homes, caused by a number of factors including poor insulation and high energy costs, are a major cause of excess winter deaths.
‘In the short term we would urge all older people to claim the benefits they’re entitled to so they can afford to turn the heating up and stay warm.
‘However the only long-term solution to this problem is an ambitious government-led 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.
‘We are urging the Chancellor to address this in his upcoming Autumn Statement.’
Through its Spread the Warmth campaign, Age UK will be doing everything it can to help older people keep warm this winter.
Age UK offers information and advice 365 days a year and older people and their families can call Age UK Advice free on 0800 169 65 65. Age UK is also calling on the Government to support a major energy efficiency programme which will enable all older people to live in a warm home in a bid to tackle the high levels of excess winter deaths and fuel poverty amongst older people.
The Charity is calling on people to help reduce the number of unnecessary deaths this winter by joining its campaign for warm homes or by making a donation. 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.
Age UK is part of the Energy Bill Revolution, an alliance with over one hundred members, including Age UK, campaigning for warm homes and lower bills. For further information, please visit http://www.energybillrevolution.org/.