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Last Updated: Monday, 24 January, 2005, 22:19 GMT
OAPs admit struggle to keep warm
Elderly person by an electric fire
One in six pensioners admit they struggle to keep warm
More than one in six hard-up pensioners in Scotland struggle to keep warm in their homes during the winter, according to a new survey.

The Scottish Gas Help the Aged Partnership study found that nearly one in three elderly people turned off their heating in the afternoon.

It also revealed that more than 72% had never heard of government programmes to help with heating improvements.

Last year 2,900 people, mainly elderly, died in Scotland because of the cold.

But Help the Aged believes the figures could be dramatically reduced if pensioners changed their attitude to winter weather.

As a nation, despite our geographic location, we are simply not geared up to the cold
Elizabeth Duncan
Help the Aged

As part of its Excess Winter Deaths Campaign, the partnership undertook a UK-wide survey of over-60s who were on benefits to find out how they cope with the cold in winter.

As a result of the findings, the survey's authors called on the Scottish Executive to take action to combat the comparatively high levels of winter mortality among pensioners in Scotland.

Scottish Gas and Help the Aged want the executive to research factors such as depression, malnutrition and disease that contribute to such deaths.

Elizabeth Duncan, of Help the Aged in Scotland, said: "As a nation, despite our geographic location, we are simply not geared up to the cold.

"We don't prepare properly and we often don't dress adequately or are too inactive when outdoors in the cold.

Pensioner watching television
The elderly are advised to prepare their homes for the cold

"Regrettably, we hold the record for having one of the highest preventable winter death rates among comparable European countries.

"While this may be largely due to the cold, damp homes, studies have shown it can be made worse by our behaviour."

The survey found many pensioners believed a cold home was a healthy one and nearly half kept their bedroom window open at night, even in cold weather.

Help the Aged warned that cold air can increase blood pressure and prolonged exposure to temperatures less than 16C increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

The executive said it recognised the scale of the problem but had made big progress in tackling fuel poverty.

A spokesman said: "The Warm Deal and the Central Heating Programme have insulated over 200,000 homes and helped install over 43,000 central heating systems.

"Research shows nine out of 10 households previously classed as living in fuel poverty have had their fuel bills cut after having central heating installed for free."

He added: "Winter deaths are due to many causes - not just cold houses. We are conducting a research project with the University of Edinburgh to examine any links between poor housing and poor health and to evaluate the impact of the central heating programme on health."

The partnership has produced an information pack offering practical advice and tells people where they can find help with insulation and central heating.

Winter deaths rise 'shameful'
16 Nov 04 |  Scotland
Warming offer to OAPs on heating
24 May 04 |  Scotland
Charity warning over winter deaths
27 Nov 03 |  Scotland
Energy firms urged to cut prices
20 Nov 03 |  Scotland

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