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Pensioners call for action against cold

PUBLISHED: 02:22 30 December 2001 | UPDATED: 15:22 03 March 2010

CALLS for a major rethink of care policies to prevent thousands of cold-related deaths among the elderly have been backed by pensioners' rights leaders in East Anglia.

CALLS for a major rethink of care policies to prevent thousands of cold-related deaths among the elderly have been backed by pensioners' rights leaders in East Anglia.

One campaigner said she was "shocked" to learn more than 2,000 elderly people had died last winter from cold-related causes in the region.

Jack Thain, chairman of the Eastern region's Pensioners' Association and the Suffolk Pensioners' Association, said there were many things to be done if the high number of cold-related deaths was to be curbed.

"Many houses in which older people live are simply not built to withstand the cold weather and that needs to be tackled," he added.

Edith Pocock, secretary of the Norfolk and Norwich Pensioners' Association, said the whole system of how we cared for the elderly had to be reviewed.

"We've known about this problem this for some time, although I'm shocked by the figures. But it's not just about people dying from the cold. It's about people being alone and isolated," she added.

"In other countries old people are cared for by their families, but in this country you often find that children, grandchildren or nephews and nieces have moved away due to jobs and other pressures. It leaves people very vulnerable."

The figures, released by Help the Aged after being compiled by the Office of National Statistics, revealed the desperate annual cycle faced by thousands of pensioners every year.

They showed 2,300 people aged 65 and over died last winter in the Eastern region. Nationally, 22,700 elderly people died of cold-related deaths in England and Wales last year.

Mervyn Kohler, a spokesman for Help the Aged, said behind the figures there was an "uncountable amount of illness, discomfort and sheer misery".

He added: "This bulge of winter deaths is a peculiarly British problem. When countries with much more severe winters than ours have much lower winter death rates, it becomes obvious that something is badly wrong."

But while Mrs Pocock admitted many houses occupied by the elderly were insufficiently fitted out with central heating, there remained a wider problem.

"It's not just the cold, elderly people die in the summer as well. We need to look at how we can provide better care for old people – particularly those who are in their 80s and 90s. We need to keep an eye on them and care for them," she said.

Help the Aged called on the Government to add more urgency to the issue of fuel poverty and wanted to see stronger action taken to help elderly people with sub-standard housing and heating facilities.


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