Changing Attitudes towards the Cold: Research into the Attitudes of Older People towards the Cold

Author:
Organisation:
Attend Rights to Warmth
Date: 2009
Location:

Rationale

Over the first decade of this century, the issue of fuel poverty has gained increasing prominence, and central government has established dedicated initiatives focused on delivering warmer homes. There is evidence that living in a cold property has serious consequences for both an individual’s wellbeing and the resulting demand placed on health and social care services. However, there are questions as to whether campaigns and advice aimed at persuading people to improve the energy performance of domestic properties are effective in reaching all sections of the community and whether some groups, such as older people, may be losing out. Knowing what works for different audiences would be valuable for both the energy sector and the health sector.





Key research Question

To investigate the attitudinal barriers that prevent people, particularly older people, from keeping their houses warm and accessing the schemes that exist to help them do this, and to inform current and future programmes to ensure they are successful at reaching those who are vulnerable.



Summary of activity

To investigate the attitudinal barriers that prevent people, particularly older people, from keeping their houses warm and accessing the schemes that exist to help them do this, and to inform current and future programmes to ensure they are successful at reaching those who are vulnerable.





Findings

The authors list five ‘factors driving the experience of cold among the elderly’: health, behaviour, knowledge, attitudes and home environment. They argue that within the broad cohort of older people those in lower income brackets are at particular risk. Despite the widespread availability of information, the study found that many older people had little interest in receiving such resources and infrequently pursued opportunities to access advice or practical opportunities. 



Recommendations

Policy and practice must take account of, and reflect, the impact on health of living in, or being at risk of, fuel poverty, particularly with regard to thermal comfort. They must address misplaced perceptions and, where appropriate, include dedicated health-focused interventions. Several areas for future research are proposed, including expanding the geographical focus, improving the clarity of advice around switching energy suppliers, and incentivising GPs to help people stay warm.



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