'I come in here for an hour to keep warm. I think it will save money'
NOTTINGHAM'S shopping centres are always filled with shoppers. But some people are there just to keep warm.
Desmond Hudson, 82, of Willow View, Radford, goes into the Victoria Centre around three times a week.
"I come in here for an hour or longer to keep warm. I think it will save me some money, even if it's only a little bit. My state pension leaves me struggling to pay the bills."
Mr Hudson, an ex-carpenter, was involved in the building of the Nottingham Tram, before retiring in 1995. However, he continued to work until falling from a ladder in 2002.
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He has an income of £151 per week, which includes his Government insurance following his fall and £108 in state pension. His rent is £55 a week and he tops up around £15 to £20 for his heating per week. On top of this come his quarterly gas bills, as well as groceries.
"I have hardly any money left after having paid the fuel bills."
Mr Hudson is just one of a number of people who say they can't afford to keep warm on their pension.
Leonard Lawton, 81, of Utile Gardens, Bulwell, and his wife Alma, 80, often stay in bed until lunchtime during winter.
"We are both in our 80s and we have got nothing else to get up for and if we put the fire on it is too expensive," he said.
"We are not paupers but we have to be careful."
Glenise Martin, of Nottingham Elders' Forum, was aware of people going to the Victoria Centre simply to keep warm for the day, with some taking sandwiches and a drink.
Concerns have been raised after recent cold weather.
She added: "Many members expressed regret about the closing of the cafe in the Central Library, where they could have a bite to eat whilst spending the day reading the newspapers or books in there."
David Jones, of Nottingham Pensioners' Action Group, was concerned about the surveys.
"What it is revealing is the fact that the Government cuts and the increase in the cost of living for older people is beginning to bite.
"The other thing it makes you think is what happens when someone is really getting on and is not so mobile and can't go out to keep warm," he added. "That's why we are getting the increase in deaths in winter of older people."
In Nottingham, there are 17 per cent more deaths among the elderly in the winter than at other times of the year.
Nottingham City Council has been awarded £80,440 by the Department of Health to help people aged 70 and over at risk of illness or death due to poorly-heated homes. Vulnerable older people are being identified by NHS staff, and the money is being used for specialists from Age UK Nottingham and Age UK Notts to assess houses and carry out improvements. The programme will run until March.
Age UK Notts is also calling on people to look out for their elderly neighbours. Mick Tinkler, chief executive of Age UK Notts, said: "We would encourage people to check if elderly neighbours need assistance with shopping. If the curtains are not open during the day, or there are no lights on in the evening, there may be something wrong."