Surviving winter: Old People's Trust offers advice to district's elderly residents
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“The last year has been especially hard for older people and with increasing fuel costs things will get tougher for many older people,” said Kate Newton, grants manager for St Albans Old People’s Trust.
Established in 2000, the trust was established for the relief of need, hardship and distress, and to help residents aged 60 and over to remain independent and comfortable in their own homes.
But with the impact of the pandemic still taking its toll, the charity's clients are also having to face increases in fuel costs this winter.
Kate explained: “Last winter we had calls from older people who were going to bed early to save on heating. One example that sticks in my mind is the nice old man who was going to bed at 4pm in a four-poster type bed that he’d rigged up for himself: his dog hops up with him so they can both keep warm.
"I also visited a mobile home with no heating which was freezing: the client offered me a dressing gown to put on top of my coat. The trust paid for the mobile home to be insulated, part paid for a new boiler and gave her some money for heating bills.
“We hear from old people whose boilers broke down months before, but they haven’t had the funds to repair them. In one instance the lady was heating her small flat via by switching the oven on and leaving the door open. We paid for the boiler repairs as well as some of the fuel debt that she had built up.
“Some old people tell us that they are having to choose between food and heating their house, which is heart-breaking. We try and help as much as we can.
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“There is lots support available for local older people, but as many older people aren’t on the Internet, they need the help of family and friends to tell them what’s out there. So, if you are reading this and know of older people who may struggle this winter, please talk to them about seeking support."
The trust can help with contributions to utility bills/top-ups to pre-payment meters, a free boiler service for those who own their own home, warm clothes and shoes/boots, payment for Meals on Wheels, free items including kitchen appliances, mobility aids and recliners.
Last year the Trust gave away £250,000 in free items and services. For more information call 01727 260701, 07541 659442 or visit the website www.staopt.org
Citizens Advice St Albans can help people of all ages in many ways. They advise on energy costs and sources of support with heating costs. They can help resolve disputes with water and phone companies, with landlords and help with completing tax forms.
For older people they can check entitlement to Pension Credit, as over 1,500 pensioners in the district alone are missing out on £4 million a year. For more information call 01727 811118 or visit https://citizensadvicestalbans.org.uk/.
Older people worried about heating the house for the whole day could consider popping into the Jubilee Centre on Catherine Street which has a restaurant that is especially for older people. It’s a great place to meet other people of a similar age to have a chat over food or a cup of tea in a welcoming, warm environment. The restaurant is open every weekday from 12.30-1.30pm. There is no need to book ahead, people can just drop by and enjoy a hot meal and a dessert for only £5.25 or a low-cost hot drink.
It is also a good place to find out about other things happening in your local area, or to join a leisure group. For more information, call Hertfordshire Independent Living Service on 0330 2000 103, or visit their website at www.hertsindependentliving.org/jubilee-centre