THE proportion of pensioners living with no central heating is highest in Barrow than anywhere else in the country.

Overall, more than 66,000 over-65s across England and Wales are likely to be living alone without central heating, according to analysis of census 2021 data by the PA news agency.

Age UK described the findings as being "of tremendous concern" and warned of "potentially serious consequences" for older people's health and wellbeing.

Some 11 local authority areas recorded at least four per cent of people aged 65 and over living alone with no central heating.

Barrow had the highest proportion at 5.4 per cent (262 people), followed by Gwynedd in north-west Wales (4.6 per cent or 401 people), Portsmouth (4.5 per cent or 498), and Pendle in Lancashire (4.4 per cent or 237).

London boroughs Waltham Forest, Lambeth and Westminster were also among the highest areas, with 4.3 per cent (371 people), 4.1 per cent (425) and 4.0 per cent (407) respectively.

Having no central heating is one of the household characteristics used as an indicator of deprivation.

There were 3.1 million one-person households aged 65 and over in England and Wales on March 21 2021, the day of the census, and of those 2.1 per cent - 66,027 - had no central heating.

The PA analysis also found that more than 100 local authority areas had at least two-fifths of older people living alone who are disabled - another indicator of deprivation.

The definition of disabled used by the census is people who have assessed their day-to-day activities as limited by long-term physical or mental health conditions or illnesses.

While Blaenau Gwent had the highest proportion of disabled older people living alone - 50.7 per cent or 2,288 people - it was among the areas with the lowest proportion of older people living alone without central heating, at 0.8 per cent or 36 people.

County Durham, North East Derbyshire and Hart in Hampshire all had the lowest proportion of lone older people without central heating, at 0.7 per cent.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at older people's charity Age UK told PA: "Having limited money in later life really impacts day-to-day living, exacerbating feelings of loneliness and disconnection from society.

"These figures are of tremendous concern, as older people lacking central heating often find it very difficult to stay warm during the winter months with potentially serious consequences for their health and wellbeing.

"Living alone can make this situation worse as it means that one person's income has to stretch further to cover the fixed costs of heating a home, and it can, in some cases, lead to social isolation, which can have additional negative consequences."

Ms Abrahams called on the Government to "make sure that it is prepared for next winter".

She added: "Expanding central heating access and providing suitable alternatives to keep older people warm will be absolutely key."

Age UK said anyone who is struggling, or their concerned families and friends, can contact its free Age UK advice line on 0800 169 65 65 which is open every day from 8am until 7pm.