Charity Begins at Home

There is a simple rule in life. There is no escaping it and no hiding from it; it is an inevitable happening. What I am talking about is death. There are approximately 63million people living in the UK and eventually we are all going to die. We will live our lives growing; raised by family and making many friends along the way. Why is then that 21,000 elderly people find themselves dying alone each year in the UK? They cannot have lived their lives solitude. So why are they deserted at the time when they are needed the most?

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The elderly are a vulnerable group and their numbers are increasing rapidly every year. For the first time in history, the number of people aged 60 or over has reached 14 million. Furthermore, 1.4 million people are now either 85 or over. These statistics show that there are more pensioners in the UK than people under 16. Our care system is obviously doing something right.

It is clear that with age more care is needed and this costs money. One thing that I cannot get my head around is why we have difficulty understanding the importance of attending to this need. If we are all lucky enough we will reach a ripe old age – so don’t we want to have a good system in place now that we will then benefit from when we reach that stage in our lives? 68% of the elderly population believe that politicians see them as a low priority. This feeling of unimportance needs to be reversed. However, I  strongly believe that this can start at home.

With winter now upon us we must be extra vigilant in looking after the elderly. Whilst us youths may rejoice in the fact that winter has arrived – the inner child in us is released with the arrival of snow and the anticipation of Christmas, for many elderly people it is a nightmare. The BBC have estimated that 25,000 older people in the UK could die because of the cold this winter. Why is this you ask? The drop in temperature could see an increase in health problems. While death from hypothermia is rare, cold weather and poor heating – which results in circulatory diseases – accounts for 41% of all recorded natural deaths and 13% are due to respiratory diseases. Furthermore it has been estimated that mortality rises by one to two percent for every degree below 20C. Therefore this means that in the UK for every degree Celsius below the winter cold average, 8,000 people a year die. This is a shocking statistic which predominantly concerns the elderly.

How is the government addressing this issue? Well, they have recently announced their usual annual winter warning statement to the elderly. It’s basically a survival list: do this but don’t do that and you’re sure to last the winter. Helpful? Not particularly. Through some new regimes though they did help to reduce the number of excess elderly deaths during last years winter by 2,340 compared to the previous one. Plus Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, said : “we will be shortly announcing which projects will benefit from our £20 million fund to help vulnerable people stay warm and well this winter.” So I suppose they are making an effort on some level.

However, the government cannot look after every elderly person in the UK. This is why I believe it to be extremely important for everyone to make an effort. It is the small things in life that can make a huge difference.

In a recent survey by the charity Age UK, where it surveyed 1,000 people over 65, it found that 7% of them did not even know their neighbours and that 35% of them were worried about keeping warm at home during the winter. There is a simple solution to this. If you have elderly neighbours, or if you even know any elderly people, make a conscious effort to check up on them now and again. To make sure they have food and fuel in their homes. To take them to get a free flu jab. Simpler still, give them some company. The little things can go a long way and could literally save a life. Researchers have found that feeling isolated and lonely can have a negative impact on physical and mental health.

We can all play a part in helping older people. No one wants to be alone and WE will not want to be alone once we have grown old. So open your eyes and make a difference to someones life. Like the saying goes, charity begins at home.

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