How you can help older people this winter

Royal Voluntary Service Chief Executive, David McCullough, explains how you can help.

The rallying call by the NHS asking people to take time out to make sure older people are warm and coping well this winter has the potential to be a very significant moment.

It could show that as a society we do all care enough about older people and that we recognise there are problems that we can all play a part in fixing.

Recent statistics show deaths attributed to cold weather in England were up by a third last winter compared to the previous year – that’s 31,000 people that died because of cold weather, the majority of whom were over 75.

We are relieved to see that everyone agrees the time for action is now. For many, it is making the time for older relatives, neighbours and friends they already know and this is a crucially important contribution. With busy lives and changes in family structures and circumstances, our research shows many older people live more than 40 miles away from their children, so making time is vital. In friendly neighbourhoods, where people know their neighbours, it might just mean nipping round to check an older person has everything they need, especially when cold weather hits.

For those that don’t have older relatives or friends, or would feel worried about approaching an older neighbour they don’t know, but still recognise how important the pledge is and want to help, the Royal Voluntary Service can offer opportunities to volunteer as a Good Neighbour.

The Good Neighbours scheme is a really simple way to help older people, even if you only have an hour or so to spare. It’s the small things that make a difference, so you can pop round for a cup of tea and a chat and check someone is safe, warm and well at the same time.

Simple things, such as changing a light bulb or buying a few extra bits to take round when you do your weekly shop or clearing snow away from the path near an older person’s house might not seem like much but it shows that someone cares and that caring can really can help save lives.

All it takes is a friendly face to take the time to check that everything is ok.

Royal Voluntary Service is one of the largest voluntary organisations in Britain with 40,000 men and women helping older people at home, in the community and in hospitals through the Good Neighbours scheme as well as through other services including Meals-on-Wheels, Books-on-Wheels, Community Transport and Home from Hospital, which provides older people the extra support they need after a stay in hospital.

We encourage you to make the Winter Friends pledge and call us on 0845 608 0122 or visit to talk about how you want to help. You can also call us on the same number if you are older person or the friend or relative of an older person to find out more about the support we can provide.

Signing up for the NHS Winter Friends pledge is a step in the right direction and Royal Voluntary Service is here with plenty of opportunities to help you fulfil your pledge this winter.

The NHS Winter Friends pledge is appealing for 100,000 people to help make sure older people are safe and well this winter and is now working in partnership with older people’s charity Royal Voluntary Service.

David McCullough

Royal Voluntary Service Chief Executive.