AN OXFORD academic is calling on pensioners to join him in donating their winter fuel allowance to help elderly people stay active and live longer.

Sir Muir Gray, who has worked for the NHS for almost 50 years, believes if those who could afford to in the county handed over the annual payment of between £100 and £300 from the Government it could make a massive difference to people’s quality of life as they age.

The 75-year-old said: “I’ve been thinking about this for decades but this year it really hit me it’s ridiculous I get this money when it could be used for a much better purpose.”

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Sir Muir has teamed up with Age UK Oxfordshire and Active Oxfordshire to launch the Share Your Warmth appeal.

He explained: “Many thousands of people in Oxfordshire will have received a winter fuel payment. For some of them this will have been of great importance but many of us wonder what we should do with this £200. With this note we are launching the Share Your Warmth appeal with the aim of getting people to give their winter fuel allowance to Age UK Oxfordshire to make winter better for housebound and inactive people.”

He added: “Age UK Oxfordshire, along with Active Oxfordshire’s support, are working every day to enable people to be more active in later life and to bring people together to enjoy life.

"They need our help to reach more people with more activities and opportunities.”

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His ambitious target is to get 1,000 people in the county to donate the payment, which would generate approximately £200,000 ringfenced for spending on keeping older people active – physically, intellectually and emotionally.

A survey carried out by Sport England found while 67.2 per cent of Oxfordshire’s adults were active, 12.5 per cent were only fairly active and one in five (20.3 per cent) of adults were completely inactive.

This percentage was far higher though for those aged 75+, with more than 50 per cent inactive.

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Sir Muir said the way society thinks about ageing needed to change, explaining: "People in their early sixties now can expect, with a bit luck, to live another 30 years.

"This is far longer than it would have been in the past and it means there is a whole other phase of someone's life.

"If people can stay active in every sense, getting some exercise, volunteering, staying socially engaged, and mentally too, then there is no reason the quality of this time of life has to decline."

Penny Thewlis, chief executive of Age UK Oxfordshire, said the inspiration for the new appeal had come from Sir Muir and the charity saw it as a ‘great opportunity’ to team up with the renowned doctor.

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Penny Thewlis. Picture: Anna McKay

She said: “It really is a meeting of minds. We got together through our partnership with Active Oxfordshire and it is part of a much bigger campaign for us to encourage more people to become more physically active.

"We know as people age they become less physically active and we know if people are a little more active they would stay free from many illnesses for longer."

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The charity estimates each £200 donation, the average amount awarded, could support 20 housebound people to do specialist seated exercises at home with a home exercise pack, support 40 older people to attend a tailored group exercise class, keeping them active, mobile and socially connected or enable 100 housebound older people in Oxfordshire to receive a friendly phone call. She said: "We see this year as a way to get established and spread the word. From there we can grow and build momentum going forward."

Paul Brivio, chief executive of Active Oxfordshire, said Sir Muir had first mentioned his idea while he was filming a video for the Kidlington-based group.

He added he believed the new appeal would be a way for people to see the personal link between their donation and the work they and Age UK Oxfordshire do, saying: “It’s so important that we don’t ignore the good work already being done but that people can see the direct benefits of their donation.”

Donate here.