One in three older people admitted to hospital are already at risk of malnutrition, making it tougher for them to recover from illness quickly. Just over a third of older people who have recently moved into care homes are also at risk of malnutrition.
Support services in the government's campaign will raise awareness of the symptoms among older people and help them to take action, with volunteers from local Age UK groups providing extra support.
The scheme is part of the government's response to the the Francis Report into the events at Mid Staffs hospital, which found that patients, many of whom were elderly, were unable able to eat or drink properly and that nutrition was not treated as a priority.
The government has launched a project to tackle malnourishment among the elderly.
One million people over the age of 65 in England are prone to illness because they suffer from or are at risk of malnutrition, according to charity Age UK.
The project aims to increase diagnosis of the condition, and improve treatment, care and support for older people.
Actress Joanna Lumley was the first to pledge to help elderly friends and neighbours through the winter by signing up to an NHS scheme.
Lumley said she was "proud" to become a "Winter Friend" and urged others to join the scheme.
She said: "A little help really does go a long way. You will also find, I'm sure, that giving a bit of your time in this way is hugely rewarding.
"Older people can be physically frail but they have a lifetime's wisdom and experience to share."
Former Olympic champion Sally Gunnell, actor Sir Tony Robinson and rapper Plan B are also backing the initiative, an NHS England spokesman said.
Health officials want to recruit an army of good samaritans to care for their elderly neighbours or friends this winter.
NHS England hopes 100,000 people will sign a pledge promising to look in on the elderly as the nights turn colder.
The scheme comes as a sharp rise in excess winter deaths was exposed, with pensioners the worst effected.
Figures released yesterday by the Office of National Statistics showed excess winter deaths rose by 29%, with over-75s accounting for 25,600 out of the 31,000 additional deaths.
One in six pensioners have hidden serious problems with their health from loved ones, a survey found.
The poll of 2,000 OAPs aged 65 and over found 16% had hidden an ailment because they were worried they would lose their independence or be seen as a burden, a survey found.
A further 12% thought if they made their injury known to family members they would be seen as incapable of looking after themselves.
Two thirds did not want to worry their loved ones.
The survey was carried out on behalf of telecare alarm provider Centra. Managing director Wendy Darling said: "There is a stigma that sometimes comes with growing older and it's clear this can stop people from facing up to the help they could get."
Ofgem has questioned the "Big Six" energy firms' claims that soaring bills are down to a rise in wholesale market prices of gas and power, the Financial Times reported.
The energy regulator's figures claim that wholesale prices increased by only 1.7% over the past year, which should have been reflected in a rise of only around £10 on bills.
Centrica argued that Ofgem's methodology is '"flawed".
Energy UK have issued a warning that "no-one should be cold this winter" and urged people to contact their energy company if they have failed to deliver insulation improvements in time to homes.
A statement said:
No-one should be cold this winter. If people are worried they should contact their energy company - they may have schemes to help and can offer advice.
Energy UK has been working with local authorities on the delivery of the ECO and the Green Deal. We have already held a number of roadshows round the country where participants - including local authorities, housing associations, providers, DECC and the Green Investment Bank - have been able to share their experiences and learn for best practice.
We appreciate that ECO, like any major new Government programme, takes time to bed in and for people to understand how things work, but the industry is committed to helping in that process.
The Local Government Association have warned that tens of thousands of poor and elderly people will face another winter of high bills and cold homes because of the failure by energy companies to deliver insulation improvements in time.
The organisation, which represents 373 councils in England and Wales, urged the companies to work with local authorities to get the work done.
Energy companies are collecting this money through a levy which is contributing to the cost of fuel bills and they have an obligation to invest it as swiftly and effectively as possible to deliver upgrades which save vulnerable people money and keep them warm and healthy this winter.
Councils understand their communities and are uniquely well placed to pinpoint the areas where upgrades will do the most good. Local authorities up and down the country stand ready to work in partnership with the energy companies to make sure the hundreds of millions of pounds of unspent money is used to deliver warmer homes and lower bills to the people who need it most.
Energy companies are falling behind in their obligation to pay for insulating the homes of tens of thousands of poor and elderly people, council leaders claimed.
An analysis released by the Local Government Association suggested that the power giants are more than 60% behind their target to deliver more energy-efficient homes.
This is despite raising almost £1 billion so far this year through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) levy, which adds around £50 to the average household's annual bill.
The ECO is designed to raise money to deliver warmer homes for people on limited incomes and lower their utility bills by reducing the amount of energy they need to use.
In response to an inquest that found neglect was a contributing factor in the deaths of five elderly residents at the Orchid View Care Home in West Sussex, a Department of Health spokesperson described the lack of care as "appalling".
They added: "We have made it clear that there must be a sharper focus on taking tougher action when things go wrong and holding those responsible to account.
"Confidence in the regulation regime has been shaken, but we have now turned a corner."