Fears over health and loneliness of elderly this winter

Elderly woman
Image caption Pensioners could suffer alone this winter

People are being asked to call in on their elderly neighbours this winter amid fears pensioners will suffer worse than ever.

Age UK estimates that as many as 25,000 older people could die needlessly because of the cold.

It says the drop in temperature could see an increase in health problems for older people and risk leaving them isolated in their own homes.

The charity surveyed more than 1,000 adults aged over 65 across the UK.

The responses suggest that 3.5 million people in this age group in the UK are not getting any help or support from their neighbours.

Some 7% of them do not know their neighbours at all, the survey found.

Age UK's research also found that 35% were concerned about keeping warm at home during the winter.

Health risks

The over-65s contacted were concerned about not getting out during the shorter days and worried about falling over on slippery pavements and injuring themselves.

More than 21% said they were worried about being stranded at home.

Previous research shows that cold weather can increase the risk of health problems in older people, including heart attacks and strokes, respiratory problems, pneumonia and depression.

Feeling isolated and lonely is also known to have an impact on physical and mental health.

Michelle Mitchell, charity director general of Age UK, said winter was a difficult time.

"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."

Responding to Age UK's findings, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "Cold weather can be hazardous for our health, particularly for older people and those with respiratory illnesses.

"As winter approaches we should all be on our guard against health problems.

"By taking simple steps such as getting a free flu jab if you are in an at risk group, or popping in to check on older friends and neighbours, we can all play our part.

"We recently announced our cold weather plan and we will be shortly announcing which projects will benefit from our £20 million fund to help vulnerable people stay warm and well this winter."

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