Britain’s largest food bank, The Trussell Trust has reported that it provided almost 160,000 three-day emergency supplies in December last year, a 49% increase on the monthly average.
As this winter looks to be another busy year for food banks across the country, Dr Aravinda Meera Guntupalli, Senior Lecturer in Public Health at The Open University, investigates the most vulnerable demographic: pensioners.
“Despite the relatively mild winters experienced in the UK, the death rates during the winter months are much greater than those seen in countries with harsher climates. The UK is the 6th poorest performer among 30 European countries in excess winter mortality, and after adjusting for the cold weather, the UK becomes the second poorest performer following Ireland.
In 2016/17 there were 34,300 excess winter deaths – that’s one person dying every six minutes. With the majority of these deaths occurring in adults aged 75 and above, there is awareness to be raised as this exposed group are ignored by the media due to a conscious ageist perspective and the unconscious bias prevalent in our society.
30.3% of deaths are attributable to avoidable circumstances, such as living in a cold home or not eating enough food – simple actions that can be easily resolved. Nearly half a million older people face food, fuel, and income poverty, with solo pensioners most at risk. There is a clear correlation between lacking money, not being able to heat your home, and consequently not having enough food.
Older people are less likely to use food banks, due to accessibility issues, loneliness, and the negative stigma attached to seeking charity. As we make an effort to support food banks, especially at this time of year, it is important to consider older members of the community, whether they be a neighbour, friend, or stranger in need.”
Find out more:
Watch Dr Aravinda Guntupalli discuss the issue further in Why don’t we care about pensioner fuel poverty?
Learn about studying Health & Social Care courses at The Open University