Hats, gloves, scarves and thick coats are our main line of defence for keeping warm in winter. But for the elderly - who are more susceptible to the cold - extra measures should be taken to protect against chillier temperatures, along with the health problems they can cause. By taking these measures, alongside a wardrobe of winter clothes to keep you wrapped up for winter, you should stay safe and warm during the colder months.
Being exposed to the cold can put everyone – but especially the older generation – at risk of hypothermia, heart attack or stroke, alongside flu and respiratory problems. It is therefore vital to stay warm when both inside and out.
In fact, this is such a big issue that fuel poverty has become a huge political hot topic in the UK, with one in 20 older people being unable to heat their homes, according to December’s annual fuel poverty report.
Many people find it hard to afford both groceries and their utility bills, forcing many elderly people to make the tough decision between heating or eating. In the four winters previous to 2016, close to 120,000 people are believed to have died due to cold weather or to illnesses which were likely to have been brought on by cold weather.
You might expect that weather is the only factor here - but that’s not necessarily the case. Other cold Nordic countries, such as Finland, manage to deal with the cold far better and with much lower mortality rates.
Conversely, warmer countries like Portugal, who you would expect to have much less of an issue in this regard, suffer with even greater winter deaths.
We understand that not everyone has the money to keep the heating on all day and night, so here’s some economical tips on how to keep warm:
Tips for Keeping Warm in Winter
- We know we mentioned clothing already but let’s go into a little more detail to make sure you’re getting the best for your winter health. Layering clothing and wearing the right types of fabric is key to keeping warm. Wool and fleecy materials are the best choices and always remember to keep your feet, hands, neck and ears warm, as a lot of heat is lost through the body at these points.
- When indoors, keep your feet raised away from cold air at ground level and use a scarf or shawl when sitting. Making sure you’re wrapped up warm is a big part in keeping your body protected from risks associated with cold temperatures.
- Another great clothing idea is bed socks for elderly residents. They may sound like a rather old fashioned concept, but they kept people warm for generations and they certainly haven’t stopped working in the modern age.
- A hot water bottle or heat pad is always good to have handy in bed. Additionally, thermal underwear can help keep you feeling toasty at all times of the day.
- Keeping active is particularly important in winter, as gentle exercise will get your circulation moving. If it’s not too cold, a walk outside will get blood pumping, or you can always do some chair exercises indoors.
- The average room temperature UK is usually between 21 and 18°C, so keep an eye on that house thermometer and start taking action to keep yourself warm when the temperature drops significantly below that.
- It’s also important to keep moving when inside. Try not to sit still for more than an hour. You can spread chores out throughout the day and even just moving your arms, shaking your legs and wriggling your toes will give your circulation a kick.
- Make sure you also take steps to keep your mental well-being in check, as short days and long nights can often affect our moods. Getting out when it’s light can help lift spirits but if you are feeling down to the point where you don’t want to go out, it is important to talk to someone. Ask friends, family and neighbours if they can drop in more often or arrange more regular phone calls and Skype chats with them.
Tips for Keeping the House Warm in Winter
- Using timers on your central heating If you want to make sure you’re using your heating in the most economically efficient way possible - in other words, you’re not wasting money during times when you don’t really need it and leaving yourself lacking when you do - you should utilise the timers on your central heating. One tip is to time your boiler to switch on half an hour before you get out of bed, so it has plenty of time to reach your chosen temperature.
- Move furniture to get the best out of your radiator If you have items blocking parts of the radiator, then move them out of the way in order to get the most for your money in terms of heating your entire home. Plenty of us have our sofas or chairs in front of our radiators, without realising just how much heat and money we are, quite literally, throwing down the back of the sofa.
- Open your curtains This may seem like a rather obvious one, but plenty of us forget to open our curtains through the day to make the most of the sunlight. Just make sure you also remember to close them at night for the extra insulation.
- Block any draughts A simple one here - the bottom of your doors are a spot where your home is prone to losing heat. So the best way to keep that heat in is with some cheap draught excluders. In fact, this is believed to save around £25 a year off energy bills in many homes.
More information about how to keep warm in winter is available on the Age UK website here.