Living alone at Christmas

One in three worried about their heating breaking down this winter

15 December 2011

One in three worried about their heating breaking down this winter

One in three worried about their heating breaking down this winter

Millions of Britons are going into the winter months living alone and isolated from friends and family, according to new research from the AA’s Home Emergency Response Service. The findings reveal that 16% of adults, around 7.5 million people, live alone, and nearly one in six of these (15%) don’t know any of their neighbours.

Whilst the AA recognises that some people provide support to local communities, the AA is calling for a return of community spirit and is urging people to take more of an interest in their neighbours’ welfare, particularly in the harsh winter conditions when people can become very isolated.

The problem is particularly acute for the elderly, according to the AA study, which shows that one in five of those aged 65 or older (19%), around 1.9 million people, live alone. One in 10 of those in this age group (11%) don’t have any friends or family who live within five miles and a further 3% of them have no friends or family at all that could assist in the event of a winter emergency.

The findings reveal that in total more than six million people (13%) don’t have a friend or family member within five miles that could come to their rescue if they had a problem at home. Nearly two thirds of these people (62%) don’t have anyone they could turn to within 10 miles. Even more worryingly, a further 1.7 million people (4%) have no friends or family at all that could assist in the event of an emergency, and 31% of these people don’t know any of their neighbours either.

Overall more than one in eight people (13%) say they don’t know any of their neighbours.

Over the past few decades, families have moved further apart and it seems neighbourly attitudes have declined to the extent where many people wouldn’t even recognise a lot of their neighbours nowadays

Tom Stringer, Head of AA Home Emergency Response

Comment

Tom Stringer, Head of AA Home Emergency Response, said: “With the winter nights closing in, people naturally become more concerned about the possible effects of winter weather on their homes. Over the past few decades, families have moved further apart and it seems neighbourly attitudes have declined to the extent where many people wouldn’t even recognise a lot of their neighbours nowadays. This  means many people will spend this winter living alone in their homes with no family or neighbours close by should they suffer a home emergency.

This winter we’d like to see people look after their neighbours’ welfare more, offer to help them clear snow or ice from their property or help them with their shopping, particularly those who are more vulnerable such as the elderly.  We know that some communities are great at helping others as we saw with people clearing icy pavements last year. We would like to see more of this. People should also check their own relatives are prepared in the event of a winter home emergency and have the necessary insurance cover in place should they need it.”

Winter worries

The research reveals that three quarters of people (74%) have concerns about their home this winter.   33% of people are worried about their heating breaking down, 22% concerned about burst pipes and 19% worried about power cuts. One in 10 (9%) are anxious about the risk of a leaking roof.

After two consecutive cold winters, being snowed-in is a concern for 31% of people and 11% are worried about running out of food because they can’t get to the shops.

Heating systems breaking down is the biggest worry for the elderly, with one in three (37%) concerned about it, followed by being snowed in (36%) and not being able to afford the heating bills (33%).  Perhaps surprisingly, the number of people aged 65 or over concerned about their heating bills (33%) is slighter lower than the equivalent figure for the whole population (35%).

Tom Stringer continued: “Our research shows that some of the biggest concerns people have over the winter are to do with heating breaking down, their pipes bursting or their roof leaking. These people, and especially those who don’t have a network of family and friends close by, should seriously consider taking out home emergency cover to give them peace of mind and ensure they are protected if something goes wrong with their home over the winter months.”

(updated 31 January 2012)

Research carried out by ICM amongst a GB representative sample of 2,004 adults between 18th and 20th November 2011.