Winter heating costs are affecting health of older people

27 November 2014

Many older people are having to make the stark choice of whether to eat or heat, due to the high costs of heating a home in winter.

One in ten people over 50 believe their health has been affected by living in a cold house, according to research by Saga.

And Saga's findings also revealed:

* More than half of those surveyed said they worried about the cost of heating

* One in seven people were cutting back on other spending to heat their homes in winter

* Energy costs still remain higher than they were a year ago

As temperatures drop and the winter weather looks set to stay, research by Saga shows that more than half of the over 50s are worried about the cost of heating their home this winter. And an estimated 2.4million people feel their health has taken a turn for the worse by living in a cold house.

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While inflation figures may show that the cost of living is increasing at a slower rate, many older people have failed to feel the benefit.

In fact, energy costs continue to stay higher than they were a year ago, leaving many older people faced with cutting back on essential spending elsewhere, in order to heat their homes. 

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In a poll of more than 10,000 people over 50 for Saga, older consumers revealed the lengths they may have to go to in order to heat their homes.

One in seven said they would have to cut back on other spending, and six in ten said they would have to wear extra layers of clothing. 

In addition, and perhaps more worryingly, is the fact that a third of people will heat only the rooms they live in and more than four per cent - which equates to 880,000 people over 50 - would have to reduce their spending on food in order to heat their home – a real heat or eat decision.

Saga's head of communications Lisa Harris said: "These figures show just how far people will have to go to cope with the increasing cost of heating their homes.

"In this day and age people should not have to make the choice between eating well or heating their homes. In fact, for many older people they feel this is directly affecting their health.

"For most people, the time that we get up and the time we go to bed is based on how we feel. But for many older people this decision is now likely to be driven by the temperature. 

"Look around you and you'll realise that one in every ten people that you see aged over 50, and particularly those over 70, will have to spend longer in bed in the morning, and go to bed earlier at night, purely to keep themselves warm in winter. 

"This demonstrates the harsh personal reality of our escalating fuel costs."

The research also revealed that an estimated 660,000 people will spend time in a public venue, such as a shopping centre or library, or on public transport to keep warm in winter.

Lisa Harris added: "While much of the advice and information for older people is to heat their homes, we believe more needs to be done to help older people understand exactly what help is available to them.

"This is both in terms of financial support; and also what they can do to make their homes more energy efficient."

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

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