Posted by Declan Davey
With the second lockdown underway, the chances are that this winter will involve more time spent at home than usual.
Age UK’s “Spread the Warmth” campaign showed that more than three million elderly Brits worry about staying warm at home during the winter, and nearly six million are concerned about the cost of energy bills.
Therefore, it will be particularly important for seniors to follow a sensible action plan to stay safe during chilly spells.
In today’s article, we’ll share seven cold weather precautions that elderly people and their families can put in place for a more comfortable winter.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Research has found that over 80% of older adults don’t know what the ideal room temperature is for bedrooms and living rooms.
This alarming statistic suggests that many seniors may underestimate how warm their homes should be.
While personal preference does play a role, the generally accepted rule is that bedrooms should be kept at 18°C (64°F) and living rooms at a toastier 21°C (70°F).
Bathrooms, meanwhile, should be kept between 22°C (71°F) and 24°C (75°F).
Ensuring rooms are at the correct temperature is key for several reasons...
As the body ages, it can get harder to naturally retain body heat, due to a reduction in fat under the skin. Medication, too, can affect how the body picks up on and reacts to cold temperatures.
In addition, conditions such as dementia may impact how well someone can communicate that they’re feeling cold.
If possible, consider installing a thermostat to track the temperature in each room. For those who use smartphones, there are also thermometer apps you can download.
Another cold weather precaution for the elderly is to make sure there are enough supplies at home.
You don’t want to start sneezing or coughing, only to find that you’ve run out of cold and sore throat remedies.
The smart approach is to keep anything you might need -- such as lozenges and decongestants -- in a designated box or drawer that’s easy to access.
Over-the-counter painkillers (e.g. paracetamol, ibuprofen) may also be useful for symptom relief, but please make sure that these can be appropriately managed.
The NHS website recommends that everyone should get a free flu jab on a yearly basis.
Their advice is to arrange the jab in the autumn before peak flu season in the winter months.
Don’t worry if you didn’t get one during the autumn, though, because you can still receive it in the winter.
It’s true that some people doubt the effectiveness of the flu jab, but the NHS data shows that it prevented over 40% of flu cases in the UK in 2019-20, across all ages.
Everyone’s had that moment when the boiler breaks down in the middle of winter. Not much fun, is it?
A smart cold weather precaution for the elderly to keep safe during the winter is to make sure there’s a list of relevant services at hand if something needs to be fixed.
Contacts on this list may include local plumbers, electricians, damp specialists, as well as numbers to call in an emergency.
‘Tis the season for soups and stews!
Cold salads are great for hot spells, but what are the most nutritious foods for elderly people to keep warm during the winter?
BBC Good Food has a colourful list of 20 winter recipes you can experiment with if you're feeling creative...
Other foods and drinks that can help with regulating body temperature are oats, bananas, butternut squash, and ginger tea.
Of course, the amount of exercise older adults can do will vary from person to person. So the first thing we’ll say is -- please don’t overexert yourself!
That being said, it’s healthy to keep moving on a regular basis, especially during the colder months.
If you can help it, try not to remain still for more than an hour at a time.
Movement and exercise don’t need to be complicated. After all, we’re not training for the Olympics here!
Potential exercises you can try include rotations, stair stepping, overhead lifts, and even wall snow angels.
In a national survey, 22% of older adults weren’t aware that existing health problems can be worsened by cold weather. But is there any help out there to make sure elderly people can keep warm?
Yes -- the government offers financial support for heating costs. Of those born before 5th October 1954, most will be able to access the Winter Fuel Payment.
With this payment, you can expect between £100 and £300 in either November or December.
You may need to contact the Winter Fuel Payment helpline (0800 731 0160) if it’s your first year of eligibility. From then on, you should receive the payment automatically.
At present, this payment is £25 for each qualifying 7-day period from the 1st of November to the 31st of March.
Remember, you’re more than welcome to get in touch with the Autumna team if you’re looking for support yourself or for an elderly parent.
Whether you need care, legal, or financial advice for later life, we’re here to help.
You can contact us by either phone or email. The details are below:
Phone: 01892 335 330
The line is open Monday to Sunday (8:30am - 5:30pm Mon-Fri, 10am - 5pm Sat, 10am - 4pm Sun).
Thanks go to Declan Davey (Health and Wellness Copywriter) for co-authoring this article.
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