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Cold, lonely winter may cost 25,000 old people their lives

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 19, 2012


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Older people in the West Country are becoming increasingly isolated as neighbours fail to take notice of their basic needs.

According to a new report from the charity Age UK, one in four people aged 65 or more in the South West are not getting any help, support or companionship from people on their doorstep.

"It is a sad fact of life," said Tom Williams, chairman of a Pensioners and 50-Plus Action Group in the region. "Times have changed and this has been happening more and more over the years. People are busy with their own lives and they don't pop into each others houses any more.

He added: "We all know individuals who have children who live abroad, in America and Australia, and the chances are they aren't coming back. These people are all right when they are living as a couple, but when one dies the survivor tends to get very lonely. It's a real problem, but it's hard to know what to do."

Mr Williams, who is a keen advocate of over-50s getting more involved in their community, said older people were sometimes guilty of apathy themselves.

"It goes both ways. Older people need to get out more and be more vocal as well."

The survey from Age UK marks the launch of their Spread the Warmth winter campaign. The charity says the coldest months can be the most difficult for thousands of older people. It is calling on neighbours to help older residents in their local community.

They say the colder weather brings with it a massive increase in associated health problems for older people, including heart attacks and strokes, respiratory problems, pneumonia and depression.

According to the charity, as many as 25,000 older people could die needlessly this winter because of the cold, equivalent to 200 preventable deaths a day. Age UK's research reveals that half of people aged 65 or more in the South West are concerned about staying warm at home.

As the cold weather and shorter days kick in, people find it more difficult to get out and about, with 46 per cent of the age group concerned about falling over on slippery pavements.

Nearly a quarter of those surveyed said they were worried about not being able to get out and about as much.

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General of Age UK, said: "The winter can cause misery, avoidable illness and even death for too many older people. We're hoping to inspire everyone to act now to do their bit to lessen the impact of winter for older people this year. There is something simple that everyone can do from popping in to check on an older neighbour to making time for older relatives.

"As we experienced as a nation this summer, it feels good to come together and help each other out.

"Small things and a friendly face make all the difference."

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  • 2ladybugs  |  November 20 2012, 10:57AM

    @accom Nobody is saying that the elderly in future decades won't be even worse off, in fact they will probably be working all their lives if the pension age keeps rising. Re: the TV licence, people now retire at 65 therefore they still pay for their licence for ten years. Also this report is about elderly people who see nobody from one day to the next so how would that be the case if they had younger people living with them re the TV licence??? Freebies.......no more so than those on benefits!!!!????

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  • accom  |  November 20 2012, 10:44AM

    Older people have it easier now than teenagers today will have it when they are retired. Fact: any household with someone over 75 years old gets a free TV licence (even if the rest of the family are younger). Then there's the winter fuel allowance. Let's face it - poor or not, older people get a lot more freebies to help them out than anyone else does.

  • 2ladybugs  |  November 20 2012, 10:10AM

    @accom 1) They should have savings amassed over their entire lives!!!??? . Supposition. IF people have been able to save anything through their lives, they probably did so to supplement their pensions with any interest that they should now be getting. As interest is so minimal they will be using their savings to pay for increased energy costs plus increased council taxes. Don't forget IF they have savings they will not be allowed any reductions in council taxes. Also a lot of people IF they have managed to save anything will have put money by for funeral costs and care costs should they need to be put into a home. 2)Free TV licence !!!????? I don't think so. 3)You are assuming that these 25,000 people live in towns. Those in the countryside who have no transport will need to be paying for taxis to get them out and about. This will limit their ability to meet with people other than neighbours, who, as stated are usually busy with their own lives. 4)In your dreams. Children supporting their parents!!!!???? That of course is assuming these people have any children. 5)You are assuming that all these people are home owners and not living in rented accomodation. Remember people on a limited income have just that, a limited income so if they have no savings every time energy, food etc. rise something has to give. 6/7)Again you are assuming that everybody lives in towns and have access to public transport.

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  • accom  |  November 20 2012, 9:43AM

    Please provide a reasoned argument to contradict my 7 statements of fact which suggest that old people probably spend less money.

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  • 2ladybugs  |  November 20 2012, 8:32AM

    What a complete load of drivel from accom. I suggest you now go out and find out what is happening in the real world and not the make believe one you appear to be living in!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • accom  |  November 20 2012, 7:13AM

    This is sad, but there are some ways in which they choose to live which definitely make their circumstances worse. Many old people I know spend more on bird seed than on themselves, it's crazy. Birds are wild animals, they know how to feed themselves, and the people can spend the saved money on food and heating for themselves. Also, many elderly people vastly overheat their houses, making it hugely uncomfortable for anyone else to enter their home - if they just heated it normally they would (a) be less lonely and (b) spend less money. Also, I cannot see for the life of me how older people are poor compared to the rest of us: 1) They should have savings amassed over their entire lives; 2) Free NHS prescriptions and free TV licence; 3) The sensible ones amongst them do not drive so don't have to pay the expenses of running a car - or for those who do drive, their insurance is dirt cheap; 4) No children to support - once they are elderly it is usually their grown-up children who financially support THEM, not the other way round; 5) Mortgage all paid off, so no expenses of hundreds or thousands of pounds per month going out on that, which most middle-aged people have to pay; 6) Discounts on loads of days out, tourist attractions, cinema, café lunch deals, etc.; 7) Free bus travel and reduced train travel. So that's at least 7 ways in which old people have a LOT less outgoings than young or middle-aged people. So please explain why they always seem so poor!

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