Seniors scrimp on heating

STAYING WARM: Heating costs accounted for around a third of the average Victorian household’s energy bill. Some senior residents tend to us their heating sparingly to cut costs.
STAYING WARM: Heating costs accounted for around a third of the average Victorian household’s energy bill. Some senior residents tend to us their heating sparingly to cut costs.

AS WINTER sets in and temperatures drop, some elderly residents use their heating sparingly.

Whether it is an effort to keep utility costs down or trying not to be wasteful, elderly people scrimping on their heating is an issue aged-care workers often face.

City of Greater Bendigo community services manager Rod Flavell said council’s Home Support Service staff help about 2000 clients in the region.

“Some clients do use their heating sparingly, although this is a minority,” he said.

“While the majority tend to ensure their homes are warm there are a small number of clients whose homes can be very cold, where warm air escapes through any openings.”

Sustainability Victoria said heating costs accounted for around a third of the average Victorian household’s energy bill.

Their research found homes built before 2005, when tighter insulation requirements came in, had the equivalent of a 1.8 Star energy rating.

“The potential for improvement is considerable, as these older homes represent more than 70 per cent of all Victorian homes,” Sustainability Victoria CEO Stan Krpan said.

Mr Flavell said he believed a combination of factors contributed to some residents not heating their homes properly.

“(Sometimes) it is to keep utility costs down. For example, they only heat one room of the house or unit,” he said.

“The majority of our clients are on fixed incomes and some live in older-style housing which can be difficult to heat.

“This can be explained in terms of the older generation being fairly resilient and very cost conscious as they have lived in times when money and other resources were not readily available and they, therefore, do not like to be wasteful.

“For these reasons they use the heating only when absolutely necessary.”

Mr Flavell said the Home Support Service team assesses and documents homes when undertaking the initial home safety check for clients.

The check identifies a number of issues including heating and cooling capabilities.

“(You should) check that homes are in good repair and that any draughts around doors and windows are sealed as much as possible,” he said. “Heating devices (should be) safe and checked at regular intervals. Older heating devices may need to be upgraded to be more efficient and less costly.

“Most importantly, heating in the main areas of the home should be maintained at a temperature that doesn’t compromise the wellbeing of the clients who may have other health issues.

Home support staff also check smoke detectors at the beginning of each winter.”