Older people in Ynys Môn are at significantly greater risk of an electrical fire in their home than any other age-group.
Over half of fires in Welsh homes are caused by electricity, with older people at far greater risk of experiencing one – according to a new report by leading safety charity, Electrical Safety First, and Swansea University.
That’s why Rhun ap Iorwerth AM attended the launch of the report – How can we keep Older People in Wales, Safe? The report found that a third of those injured in home fires are older people (i.e. 60 and over), with those aged 80 + at least four times more likely than any other age group to be injured.
“Now winter is well and truly upon us, it’s the time of year we particularly need to keep an eye on older friends and relatives, especially in relation to electrical safety”, explains Rhun ap Iorwerth. “Often, older people understandably want to live independently in their own homes, for as long as possible. But concerns about the cost of repairs and a lack of awareness of electrical safety means many are in homes with major safety hazards. And as this report shows, with our ageing population and the increase in age-related illness, this will be a growing problem. So I applaud Electrical Safety First for highlighting this essential issue.”
Around 80% of older people in Wales are owner-occupiers, usually living in an older building which has never had an electrical safety check. They are also likely to use older electrical appliances and worries about heating bills mean they often use cheaper heating methods, such as electrical space heaters – a common cause of house fires. The charity’s report found that deaths caused by an electrical heater are significantly higher among people aged over 80 than other age group.
Robert Jervis-Gibbons, Public Affairs Manager, Electrical Safety First, said:
“With an ageing population in Wales, we have found that older people are significantly more at risk than other age groups when it comes to electrical fires in the home. Older people in Wales represent over a third of electrical fire casualties, with people aged over 80 at least four times more likely than other age groups to have been a casualty in these fires. We must ensure that older people in Wales stay living safely in their own homes particularly in the winter when electricity is used more than other times of the year”.
Wales, like the rest of Europe, has an ageing population, with the percentage of the Welsh population aged 80 or more expected to double between 2015 and 2035 – when 1 in 4 of the population will be over 65. Inevitably, this brings a significant increase in age-related illnesses such as dementia. Electrical Safety First’s report estimates that 50,000 people aged 65+ will be living with dementia in Wales by 2025, which presents its own challenges when it comes to electrical safety.
In the report, Electrical Safety First has made a series of recommendations to the Welsh Government. These include the development of a Government-funded, free, five-yearly home electrical safety check for people aged over 80 – regardless of whether they own their own homes or rent them – and compulsory, five-yearly electrical safety checks in privately rented and social housing. They also suggest local councils work with care providers to visit people over 80, to help prevent electrical fires and that the free home safety checks, undertaken by Wales’ Fire and Rescue Services, cover electrical safety and not just smoke alarms.
In the meantime, the charity has developed a range of resources to help check the safety of a property. This includes a mobile phone app, which provides a quick visual check of the electrics in a home, plus a link to find a registered electrician in your area.
Copies of the report – How can we keep older people in Wales safe? Can be found at: www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/saferhomesWales . You can find out more about electrical safety for older people at: https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/guides-and-advice/for-older-people/