Elderly worst affected by cold winter weather

By Jonathan Chilton-Towle

With winter and high power bills just around the corner, national organisations fear elderly people will be some of the worst hit.

As the days get cooler and people turn to their heat pumps and heaters to keep warm, advisers are encouraging consumers to shop around different power companies to get the best deals possible.

The elderly are especially likely to be hard hit.

North Otago Grey Power president Rose Gallagher said Grey Power had been concerned by increasing power prices for some time and was worried by the impact on the older generation.

She knew older people who would be leaving their heaters off as much as possible to save money this winter. In some cases, they would be sitting in cold rooms wrapped only in blankets.

"It's quite worrying," she said. "In most cases they would be turning off their heaters to save money and economise, but really they are putting their health at risk."

Gallagher said she tried to use her heaters only at night but, when it was a really cold day she was forced to put them on.

She said elderly people deserved to live in warm homes without having to worry about a big power bill.

"They are our forefathers and they paved the way for us," she said. "It's not a crime to be old."

North Otago Citizens' Advice Bureau co-ordinator Geoff Campbell said his group received a spike in inquiries in the first weeks of winter.

The pain of increased power prices was felt across all areas of the community, with those on fixed incomes or with limited means the worst affected, he said.

"People will be using their heat pumps and heaters and as a result the power bills are going up," he said. Campbell urged residents to go to the bureaus nationwide for advice rather than sitting in cold homes in an attempt to save power.

"We are very good at referring people on to the appropriate agencies," he said.

People could bring their latest power bill to the bureau office and staff were able to do a "what's my number?" check to see if they could save money by switching to a different provider.

The bureaus could also refer people to agencies that could help them get a subsidy on installing better insulation in their home.

Staff were also able to give general advice.

"We can always give advice on how to conserve energy around the home," Campbell said.

Gallagher said Grey Power was worried the Government's proposed plan to sell assets, including power generators, would only raise prices higher. The group has started a petition to get the Government to hold a referendum before any assets are sold.

- Hamilton News

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