A new campaign in Merton is tackling the winter death toll by challenging financial hardship and social isolation.
Warm and Well in Merton highlights the relationship between money, social connection and health, and is campaigning to reduce the number of winter deaths by ensuring people have the resources they need to live independent and socially active lives.
The majority of the 50,000 extra deaths in the winter months are older people, and many of these are preventable.
Rob Clarke, chief executive of Age UK, said: “If you have more money to enable you to get out and about it makes a huge difference to people. An analysis from a study suggests that people’s health is only 20% determined by their clinical health.
“The rest of that is about social factors, employment and money. We’re ensuring that people know about keeping well in winter by making sure they have enough money, are connected and are staying active.
“We look at the person as a whole, the wider determinants of their health and wellbeing.”
Mr Clarke said Age UK Merton team provides benefit checks to help people over pensionable age increase their income by ensuring they are accessing the benefits they are entitled to.
He said that many people don’t know that they are entitled to support to stay independent. In the first six months of the project, older adults in Merton were helped to access £195,000 in previously unclaimed benefits.
He added that the extra income allows people to have more money so that they can access community services, activities and opportunities to stay connected.
Catherine Kiernan, winter warmth engagement officer for Wimbledon Guild, said: “We’re trying to prevent people getting ill and going to hospital. We want to reduce excess winter deaths.
“It’s mainly about prevention. Making sure people aren’t isolated. It’s very holistic and covers a lot of different things, but it’s mostly about making sure people get help.”
She emphasised the need for a winter-ready home, with bedroom temperatures of 18 degrees and sitting-rooms at 21, adding that blood pressure goes up when people are cold, which increases the risk of stroke.
Alongside highlighting the importance of visiting people who may be isolated, the campaign promotes flu vaccinations, hot meals, suitable clothing and footwear, and priority services such as Mascot telecare.
A Warm and Well in Merton information fair will take place on Monday October 14 from 2.30-4.30 at Mitcham Library.
For more information about Warm and Well call 020 8946 0735.