Almost two-thirds of older people in Northern Ireland cannot afford to heat their home through the winter, it has been revealed.
The fuel poverty rate among people aged over 60 is up 15% on four years ago and now stands at 60.5%, according to the latest House Conditions Survey.
The study conducted by the Housing Executive shows that the situation is even worse for older people living on their own - with almost four-fifths officially designated as living in fuel poverty.
Age NI, a new charity combining Age Concern NI and Help the Aged, has demanded action from the Stormont Executive.
The fuel poverty issue cuts across a number of Government departments as it is related to benefit payments, housing stock and also energy costs.
Age NI chief executive Anne O'Reilly said the statistics show fuel poverty has reached crisis levels.
"It is shameful that in 2010 the number of older people struggling to keep warm is not only increasing, but doing so at a frightening rate," she said.
"In 2008, Age NI warned our political leaders that older people were in the impossible position of having to choose between eating and heating their homes. In two years, nothing has changed for the better."
Ms O'Reilly said people in Northern Ireland had a harder time because they do not have access to the same level of energy tariff discounts available in the rest of UK.
"Older people in Northern Ireland are not being afforded the same level of protection as their GB counterparts but the introduction of social tariffs here could make a vital difference," she said.