Around 150,000 households with older people could plunge into fuel poverty this winter, taking the total to more than 1.1 million, Age UK has warned.
Soaring energy prices coupled with increasing living costs is likely to force even more older people to prioritise heating their homes or feeding themselves.
In a stark warning, Age UK said the risk of people “freezing to death in their own homes… cannot be completely discounted this year”.
Analysis by the charity found “150,000 older households could be dragged into fuel poverty by the spring, unless the Government acts now to provide those at greatest risk with more financial support”.
Age UK raised concerns that pensioners would ration their heating this winter after learning many are already staying in bed for longer and worried about their bills.
It called on the Government to provide older people eligible for means-tested cold weather payments with an additional one-off £50 payment and to double the Household Support Fund to £1bn to help safeguard all those on low incomes this winter.
“There’s no doubt that media reports about rising energy bills are filling pensioners on low fixed incomes with absolute dread,” said Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK.
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Thousands of older people have written to the charity to say they face a choice between heating their home or affording food.
“I already confine myself to one room and stay in bed as long as possible. If I cut down any further there won’t be any point in living,” said Peter, 75.
Geraldine, who is 77, added: “I have arthritis which is worse when it is cold. I will have to keep my heating low now. Already I wear gloves on my hands and a heat pack inside my leggings to help my back.”
Ms Abrahams added: “More than 25,000 people have told us how worried they are, and it is clear that as things stand, some fully expect to have to choose between cutting down on food or turning down their heating, once the cold weather sets in. Doing either is a potential risk to their health, especially if they are living with serious underlying health conditions like heart disease or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
“In most years it would be hyperbole to suggest there was a risk of older people freezing to death in their own homes, but the risk cannot be completely discounted this year. That’s why we need Government action to ensure every older person comes through safe and well.”
A government spokesperson said: “We remain committed to protecting the most vulnerable in society and our £500m Household Support Fund was introduced this year to help people with essential costs through the winter.
“Supporting energy consumers is also a key priority, which is why our Energy Price Cap will remain in place, while we continue to help vulnerable and low-income households through initiatives such as the Warm Home Discount Scheme, Winter Fuel Payments and Cold Weather Payments.”