Britain’s pensioners are turning off their domestic heat for as much as nine months every year as uncertainty over energy prices worries many into trying to cut their outgoings.
Worse still, many are too proud or afraid to admit it.
Research by boiler installation firm Warm.co.uk found that many older people in the UK – particularly those living alone – use their heating as sparingly as possible, scared that they may find themselves with an unmanageable bill to pay.
The firm says people shouldn’t be made to shiver because of the fear of choosing between food and heating – practical solutions are at hand which can help most people.
Spokesman Jonathan Ratcliffe said: “Fuel poverty is one of the quiet tragedies of our age. And it’s made worse because quite often those suffering the most are too ashamed to ask for help. It really doesn’t have to be that way.”
Loss of personal dignity is just one of the many reasons older people keep quiet about the fact that they might only heat their homes for as little as three months of the year, and even them some might only heat a single room.
Warm.co.uk’s own findings reflect an Age UK survey which found that six out of 10 elderly households ration their heating in the winter. It also found that 42 per cent of households would sacrifice part of their food budget to stay warm.
“We can’t argue with Age UK’s figures,” said Mr Ratcliffe, “and our own evidence from speaking to our older clients shows how much of a problem it really is. And that’s after taking the winter fuel payment for older people into account.”
The found that 60 per cent of the 200 people they spoke to of pension age set their thermostat at below 20 degrees Celsius in order to use as little energy as possible while their heating is on.