Education & Family

Visiting the elderly could save lives, say campaigners

Close up hands, old person and younger helper
Image caption Support from neighbours can help old people stay safe says a report

Visits to elderly neighbours could prevent accidents and save lives, research suggests.

A survey of 1,000 pensioners showed almost 50% had at some point left the gas or iron on by mistake and 94% did not know who to call over a gas leak.

Yet only one in 10 younger people saw it as their job to visit the elderly.

Pensioners are particularly at risk from accidents in their homes, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said

The survey was carried out for the energy supply company National Grid as part of a week-long campaign focused on improving older people's safety at home.

Friendly eye

Safer Homes Week draws on figures from Office for National Statistics which show that in 2010 almost two-thirds of deaths as a result of accidents were among people aged over 65.

The campaign urges people to keep a friendly eye on their elderly neighbours, saying that support and reassurance can sometimes be the difference between life and death.

The online survey of 1,000 people aged over 65 and 1,000 people of working age was carried out last month by Opinion Matters.

The results showed that about a quarter of the pensioners got visitors once a month or less.

More than half of the older people questioned could not identify the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and a quarter did not know the signs of a faulty boiler.

About a third admitted they did not always ask for identification before allowing strangers into their homes.

National Grid suggests that a series of simple measures could make all the difference to the safety of more vulnerable members of the community.

In particular they recommend that neighbours should check whether carbon monoxide and smoke alarms are working, that boilers are serviced annually and that elderly people know exactly who to call if they smell gas.

Ashley Martin, public health co-ordinator at RoSPA, welcomed the campaign: "Sharing information and advice about home safety issues like carbon monoxide is an important way to help people take action to make their homes safer."

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