Millions of pensioners fear losing battle with winter cold as energy costs soar nationwide

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Around 3.5 million older people are worried they will not be able to stay warm this winter.

An older person dies every seven minutes from cold weather each winter, and those living in the coldest homes are hit most by excess winter death rates and illness, according to Age UK.

Every winter, 25,000 older people in England and Wales do not survive the cold, amounting to 206 deaths a day, or one death every seven minutes.

Many of these could be prevented and are known as “excess winter deaths”. Age UK said countries which experience much colder temperatures, such as Finland, Germany and France, have significantly lower winter death rates, because the UK has the oldest houses in the EU.

Doctor William Brehaut, 76, lives in a 200-year-old property near Peterborough. Last winter he could not afford adequate heating on his basic pension and Pension Credit and would be left without heat for days. He said: “My thermometer card showed that my living room was only 6C. I had to wear a coat indoors on the worst days.”

William Evans, 82, an ex-Navy sailor, lives in Cambridgeshire. He led the British Legion’s service on Remembrance Sunday by St Nicholas Church, Manea, Cambridgeshire.

He said: “It’s creating hardship but I just about scrape through. I don’t smoke or drink or do anything like that. I haven’t been to the cinema for 50 years, I haven’t had a holiday in 20 years, which is tragic after a busy life. Any penny you’ve got has to go into your basic living. I do feel a bit sad, that I don’t have the wherewithal to do more, having been in the services you don’t become rich.”

A third of over-65s are concerned about how they will heat their homes this winter and 70 per cent have fears over the high cost of energy, according to new research from Age UK. Escalating energy bills is one of the main concerns over the winter months for around five million over-65s, the research says today.

Just under one million older people live in fuel poverty and many cannot afford to heat their homes to a sufficient temperature to keep warm. The new research suggests 41 per cent of older people believe the Government should do more to ensure UK homes are made more energy efficient.