MORE than 100 people in Sunderland died because of cold weather last winter.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that the deaths of 120 people in the city were caused by freezing conditions, with worries over fuel costs and a squeeze on benefits being blamed.
Most of those who died were aged 75 or over, with many suffering heart attacks and strokes among other health problems during the cold snap.
The same number of people in the city died from extreme weather conditions the previous year.
Slipping on icy surfaces can also lead to broken bones which can be fatal for older people as well and chronic lung conditions are made worse during the winter months.
Overall figures for winter deaths in England and Wales fell by eight per cent to 24,000, which is thought to have been contributed to by the lowest levels of flu on record.
Alan Patchett, director of Age UK Sunderland, said the figures were a concern, particularly with the Met Office issuing a cold weather warning for this week as more snow is predicted.
He said: “Energy bills are going up all the time and older people are worried about paying them, so it’s a Catch-22 situation.
“We are working with the local authority and the primary care trust to try and address these issues and help those in need.
“If people need help in heating their home then they should contact us and we can point them in the right direction.
Mr Patchett advised older people that homes should be heated at a minimum of 21 degrees in the daytime and 18 degrees at night through the winter months.
Sunderland City Council has been given an additional £77,000 by the Government to help keep residents warm this season.
Welcoming the funding, cabinet secretary Councillor Mel Speding said: “The ‘Sunderland Warm Homes, Warm Hearts, Warm City’ project already delivers measures to protect people such as the elderly, and families with young children, and these additional resources will help continue that work.
“In addition we are also working with our partners to provide winter emergency packs, which include heaters, blankets and food vouchers so that we can cater for every eventuality in keeping people, particularly the elderly and most vulnerable, safe and warm this winter
“We can provide people with help and advice on how to keep their homes warmer through better insulation and energy conservation, and where possible help with improvements to their properties.”
People worried about keeping themselves warm this winter and in need of practical or financial help can call Age UK Sunderland on 514 1131 or go to the organisation’s office at the Bradbury Centre, in Stockton Road, near Sunderland city centre.