As the temperature begins to drop and the evenings really draw in, many of us will be looking forward to spending cosy nights indoors, or taking crisp walks in the fresh air. However, winter can be a challenging time.
When we get older, our bodies respond differently to the cold – increasing the likelihood of a heart attack, stroke, pneumonia or breathing difficulties. Nine in ten of the preventable winter deaths that happen every year are to older people, making it essential to stay as healthy, warm and comfortable as possible.
This winter the UK’s leading charity for older people, Age UK, will be doing everything it can to help older people keep warm and well. Here, the Charity’s Head of Information and Advice, John Edwards, shares his top tips on how to protect ourselves when the temperature drops:
1. Stay active and when you are indoors try not to sit still for more than an hour. If you can, get up and walk around or make a hot drink.
2. Eat well. It’s important to eat well, especially in the winter. Have at least one hot meal and regular hot drinks through the day as they to help to keep you warm. Also stock up on basic food items in case of a cold snap.
3. Keep warm at home. Most of us spend a lot of time indoors in winter, so it’s important that you are comfortable and that you keep your home warm. The ideal temperature is 64°F (18°C) for your bedroom and 70°F (21°C) for your main living room. Check your thermostat or use a room thermometer to monitor temperature, and keep your bedroom window shut on a winter’s night.
4. Keep your hands, face and feet warm. Also remember that several layers will keep you warmer than one thick layer as layers trap warm air. Wool or fleecy, synthetic fibres will keep you warmest.
5. Get your annual flu jab. Flu can develop into pneumonia so it’s important to protect yourself. Some people, including those over 65, can get the jab for free.
6. Order repeat prescriptions in plenty of time, especially if bad weather is forecast. Your local pharmacy may offer a pick-up and delivery service.
7. Keep in touch. It may be hard to get out in the cold weather but make sure you keep in touch with people. Pick up the phone or use Skype to contact friends and family or contact your local Age UK to see if they offer a befriending service.
8. Find out if you’re getting the winter benefits you’re entitled to. Most people born before 5 July 1952 will receive a Winter Fuel Payment. You may also be entitled to a Warm Home Discount on your energy bill. Your local Age UK can check if you’re eligible for benefits, or use our free online benefits calculator at www.ageuk.org.uk/benefitscheck
9. Reduce your energy bills with insulation and draught-proofing. The government’s Green Deal scheme can help you make energy-efficiency improvements or the Energy Company Obligation scheme may be able to assist. Call the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234.
10. Take steps if you’re struggling to pay your energy bills. Your energy supplier can help you work out a repayment plan, or they may have grants or trusts to help you.
For more advice on staying warm and well this winter call Age UK Advice free on 0800 169 6565 to order free copies of Age UK’s information guides including ‘Winter Wrapped Up’, ‘Save energy, pay less’, ‘More Money in Your Pocket’ and ‘Healthy Eating’. Or visit www.spreadthewarmth.org.uk to find out more about how to stay warm and well this winter.
Spread the Warmth
Each winter, one older person dies every seven minutes because of the cold weather.
Through its Spread the Warmth campaign, Age UK will be doing everything it can to help older people keep warm this winter. Age UK offers information and advice 365 days a year and older people and their families can call Age UK Advice free on 0800 169 65 65.
Age UK is also calling on the Government to invest in a major energy efficiency programme. Ultimately this is the only long term solution to cold homes and fuel poverty in later life. It would also reduce the number of preventable winter deaths, which are higher in this country than in most comparable nations.
The Charity is calling on people to help reduce the number of unnecessary deaths this winter by joining its Campaign for Warm Homes or by making a donation. To support the campaign, Age UK is calling on knitting enthusiasts to create their own cosy knitted warm houses, which will be exhibited by their local Age UK during Cold Homes Week (2-6 February 2015). We’re also asking people to pledge their support for the campaign by filling in a postcard and sending it back to us at our FREEPOST address, so that we can communicate key campaign activity with our new supporters.
To donate as little as £5, or to find out more about how you can make a difference to our work visit www.spreadthewarmth.org.uk, call 0800 169 87 87.