She was taken to hospital where her family said she was diagnosed with “severe hypothermia”. The widowed great-grandmother later developed a chest infection and died.
Her son Mark said his “proud” mum had refused his offers of help to pay her power bills for the neat terraced home in Bury, Greater Manchester, where she lived for 40 years.
Mark, 61, who spoke to his mother every night, said: “She was concerned about all her bills because she was a pensioner. She was careful, she was mindful of the prices and worried about them going up.” He told her to “just keep your heating on” and “don’t worry about the bills”.
Mark added: “But she was very stubborn and proud about paying her own way.”
Mrs Bolton’s tragic case emerged as ambulance workers revealed they are seeing many similar issues. One said: “You know if you leave that person at home they are probably going to die through the fact they are so cold.”
Campaigner Dennis Reed, director of the Silver Voices group, said older people were “switching off their heating in droves because they can’t afford the high energy prices”.
Mr Reed said Silver Voices members were trying to stay warm by visiting libraries, shops, buses or warm banks set up by churches and community groups.
He said: “We are going back decades to a time before widespread gas central heating, with frost on the inside of the windows when you wake up. What an indictment of the state of 21st-century Britain, where thousands of elders are left to shiver and die unnecessarily. The Government must reconsider its decision to cut off energy support for most state pensioners from April.”
Former newsagent Mrs Bolton had retired at the age of 82 from her job as a pharmacy assistant.
The mother of one had a single gas fire in her living room and used portable electric heaters to warm the rest of her two-bedroom house.
Mrs Bolton was taken by ambulance to Fairfield Hospital in Bury on December 11. She died on January 5.
Julie Mitchell, assistant coroner for Manchester North, adjourned the inquest and requested statements from her doctor. She said: “Her death was particularly accelerated by hypothermia and there is a possibility of self-neglect due to the lack of heating so her death has been referred to the coroner.”
Ambulance workers Tanya Hoffman and Will Green have said they are being called out to patients struggling with the cost of living most weeks.
Ms Hoffman, from Glasgow, told the BBC: “It is sad to see people are living like that. There’s been quite a few patients I have been out to who can’t afford to buy food.
“They have to choose one or other, heating or food. They’re sitting there [and] you can’t get a temperature off them because they’re so cold.
“So you take them into hospital because they are not managing. You know if you leave that person at home they are probably going to die through the fact they are so cold.”
Miriam Deakin, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, said: “Cold snaps ramp up pressure on hospitals, A&E departments and community services.
“The cost-of-living crisis and rocketing energy prices mean many people, particularly those on low incomes, are understandably reluctant to turn on their heating to keep their houses warm.” Ruth London, of Fuel Poverty Action, said energy corporations were raking in record profits from prices people cannot afford, while developers and landlords build and let homes that are poorly insulated.
She said: “Then over-stretched, underpaid NHS staff are expected to pick up the pieces. They just can’t do it. Hospitals cannot be the alternative to warm, dry homes.”
Fuel charity National Energy Action estimated cold homes caused more than 4,000 excess deaths in England and Wales last winter.
Director of policy Peter Smith said: “Last winter, there were 45 deaths a day on average due to cold, unsafe homes.”
A Government spokesman said: “We know this is a difficult time for families across the country. That is why we acted quickly to deliver the Energy Price Guarantee, which is saving a typical household £900 this winter. Our Energy Bills Support Scheme is providing a further £400 off energy bills, in addition to the most vulnerable households receiving up to £1,200. We are working with consumer groups and industry to assess the best long-term approach to helping vulnerable households.”