More than a quarter of elderly people are not able to heat their homes during the winter months, a survey commissioned last week by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) has revealed.Carried out by market research company Geocartography and using a sample of 401 men and women over the age of 65, the survey asked respondents a range of questions such as whether they are regularly forced to forgo heating their homes during winter or forced to give up on other necessities in order to pay heating costs.Out of those questioned, 27 percent said they had, at some point, been forced to forgo heating their homes during the winter months. And 81% of that group – 22% of the elderly in general – said the reason was financial, namely a lack of money.In addition, the study showed 45% of those forced to be without heat said they find themselves in this situation often and very often. As well, 26% said they are often forced to forgo other necessities in order to finance the high costs of electricity in the winter. Most of those said it was certain food substances they went without.“These findings are shocking though not surprising,” commented IFCJ President and Founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. “We have been out in the field every winter for the past 10 years witnessing the hardships of the elderly and helping tens of thousands of people.”On Wednesday, as part of its heating the elderly winter program, the IFCJ will distribute together with national housing program Amidar, checks worth NIS 500 each to 15,000 elderly people across the country. The total project is NIS 7.5 million.On February 1, electricity prices increased by 6.6%, meaning a 20% rise in total over the last six months. Most senior citizens receive a basic pension of NIS 1,481 for an individual and NIS 2,226 for a couple. Elderly over the age of 80 receive NIS 1,565 for an individual and NIS 2,310 for a couple.Eckstein pointed out that the sum is not enough to cover high heating costs and leave enough for food and medicine. This means people are forced to chose between heating their homes and eating, he said.“The strength of a society is measured by the way in which it treats its weakest links,” pointed out Eckstein. “We will continue to help as many people as possible but we also call upon the Israeli government to increase its assistance to this vulnerable population.”More findings from the survey noted that 28% of the elderly said they are sometimes forced to give up the use of hot water during the winter season at least three times a week. And 13% admitted to receiving financial assistance from relatives or other sources.The study also noted that the one-third of those questioned said it seemed harder this year to keep their homes warm compared to last winter.