Winter Friends pledge

Joanna Lumley

Support the NHS Choices Winter Friends campaign and sign our pledge to look in on an older friend or neighbour this winter.

Sign the NHS Winter Friends pledge (Goes to external site)

Last winter, about 31,000 people in England died as a result of cold weather. Most of these people were over 75 and many of these deaths could have been avoided.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of older people spend much of the winter alone and lonely. According to Age UK, 1 in 20 people in the UK aged 65 and over say they spent Christmas Day alone in 2010.

But it doesn't have to be this way.

Our Winter Friends campaign aims to get 100,000 people to sign a pledge to "take time out this winter to look in on an elderly friend or neighbour to make sure they are warm and coping well".

Everyone who signs the pledge will get free cold weather alerts and email tips throughout the winter to help them do their bit.

One of the first to sign the pledge is the actor and campaigner Joanna Lumley. She says that becoming a Winter Friend doesn't just help the elderly, but also brings great rewards to those that take part.

Joanna Lumley

Miss Lumley said: “A little help really does go a long way. You will also find, I’m sure, that giving a bit of your time in this way is hugely rewarding. Older people can be physically frail, but they have a lifetime’s wisdom and experience to share.

“That’s why I’m proud to lend my support to the NHS Winter Friends Pledge. Please join me and together we can make sure this winter is a wonderful winter for everyone.”

Sign the NHS Winter Friends pledge (Goes to external site)


What our supporters have to say

Our supporters include Olympic gold medalist Sally Gunnell, actors Sir Tony Robinson, Stephen Fry and Olivia Colman, model, actress and singer Twiggy, the television presenters Richard Madeley, Fiona Phillips and Jenni Falconer, the Bishop of Carlisle, the rapper Plan B, Royal Voluntary Service and the Campaign to End Loneliness.


Sally Gunnell

Sally Gunnell: “Why not share the festive cheer with an elderly neighbour who might be feeling a little lonely this winter. With only a TV for company, this time of year can make them feel very isolated and afraid to leave their front door. We all lead busy lives, but just taking a few minutes to say hello to an elderly neighbour to let them know you are there for them, could make all the difference.” 

Sir Tony Robinson

Sir Tony Robinson: "This year we can overcome our natural British reserve and do a little something that could be of real help. On the next frosty morning, why not make sure that someone you know is safe, warm and getting a nourishing meal?

“Join me in signing up to the NHS Choices Winter Friends pledge to look in on a vulnerable friend or neighbour this winter. It may be the best Christmas present you ever give.”

Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry: “Every year, around 24,000 people in England die as a result of cold weather, with many more ending up in hospital. Isolated, vulnerable and elderly people are the most at risk. It’s a tragedy when many of these deaths could be avoided, so that's why I'll be tweeting my support for the NHS Choices Winter Friends pledge.

“By signing the pledge you’ll be sent cold weather alerts and other information to help relatives and vulnerable neighbours as the temperatures drop. A simple undertaking to look in on someone vulnerable during the coldest months could make an enormous difference to their lives this winter.”

David McCullough

David McCullough, Chief Executive of Royal Voluntary Service: “The Winter Friends campaign is a huge step forward in bringing the wellbeing of older people to the forefront of the public consciousness – and, crucially, encouraging people to act. The rise in winter deaths by a third is staggering and shows the seriousness of the current situation and how necessary it is for everyone to come together to help.

“Although many older people are physically unable to do the simple things they used to, like clear snow from the drive or walk to the shops, their interesting stories and experiences are waiting to be shared. Small things really do make a difference – a lift to the shops or even just someone to change a light bulb. Through these interactions, which help combat loneliness, we can also check that older people are safe, well and warm this winter. Together with the NHS Choices Winter Friends we want to encourage and enable those willing to help this winter.”

Richard Madeley

Richard Madeley: "The simple act of popping round to check on an elderly person, or couple, at this time of year potentially represents a lot more than just a kind gesture – it could save lives. Harsh weather is hazardous for old folk and they need checking up on. Your visit could deliver them from distress, illness, or worse."

Kate Jopling

Kate Jopling, Director of the Campaign to End Loneliness: "It’s good to see people signing the Winter Friends pledge to check on older neighbours. Loneliness affects too many people and we could all do more to address this. Organisations working with lonely people would welcome new volunteers and we hope that Winter Friends will motivate people to come forward."

Jenny Falconer

Jenni Falconer:"Getting into the festive spirit shouldn't be the only thing on our minds this season as the temperatures fall. Isolated, vulnerable or elderly people may be more likely to be in need of our help as the weather changes.

"We all get busy and caught up in our own lives but please take just a little time out to check in on elderly friends, relatives and neighbours this winter.

"In fact, why not take things one step further and pledge to do so, I've done it and hope that you will too. Come on, what's stopping you?"


Twiggy: “It doesn’t take a lot to look in on a neighbour and you could make a real difference in making sure an old person is well and looked after.”


How to be a Winter Friend

  • Food is a vital source of energy that helps keep us warm. Make sure the person you are looking in on is eating well and has some non-perishable foods in the cupboard that they can heat up in case they can't leave the house for a few days. Tinned meals and soups are ideal.
  • Check their home is warm enough. The main living area should be around 21°C (70°F) and bedrooms should be 18°C (65°F). If they are worried about the costs of heating, check they are receiving their heating bill benefits, such as Winter Fuel Payment and Cold Weather Payment. If there are draughts, you may be able to help plug them.
  • Many older people take medicines and everyone over 65 should have a free flu jab. Ask if there is anything you can do to help – picking up a prescription or giving them a lift to their GP, for instance. And if you are unwell, take real care not to pass it on.

For more practical suggestions on what you can do to help, take a look at 10 ways to be a winter friend

Page last reviewed: 26/11/2013

Next review due: 26/11/2014


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The 2 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

huthwaiter said on 11 December 2013

It's great that carlossantander looks after three elderly people all year round but the truth of the matter is that most people don't. We all tend to be too busy working, commuting, socialising and looking after our own families and friends. A greater community spirit is definitely needed, particularly during periods of adverse weather (both very cold and very hot!)
If celebrities can use their public profiles to help raise awareness and make people think about doing more of this, we should welcome them, not criticise them. They are busy people too and, regardless of what they earn from their commercial interests, I'm sure they have not made money from supporting this great campaign.
The more people that get involved in supporting Winter Friends, regardles of their profession or social status, the better as far as I'm concerned.

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carlossantander said on 29 November 2013

I do not believe that we need celebrities to encourage us to look after are elderly neighbours. We look after two 90+ ladies during the whole year and walk an old gentleman daily to improve his health, and this is despite the fact I am nearly seventy.
Maybe our overpay TV presenters should get out at ground level and look after people instead of looking for opportunities to shine.

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