Take care of the elderly during the winter

Taking care of the older generation during the winter is something we all need to consider a bit more these days, especially with the cost of living crisis in full swing.

According to Age UK 62% of older people have had to cut back on heating or powering their home recently to make ends meet. And 57% of people aged 60 and over are worried about very cold weather.  So considering the very cold snap we had just before Christmas, and the recent minus temperatures we’ve been experiencing, this winter season is becoming increasingly challenging for many of our older friends and family members.

With all of these concerns we are all feeling, it’s even more important not to overlook our elderly friends and relatives. And with our energy bills reaching extortionately high levels, it is not surprising to hear that many older people think that they have no other option than to turn their heating off in order for them to be able to pay for other things including food. 

The concern is that prolonged exposure to colder temperatures can have a detrimental impact on the older and more vulnerable people’s health. The older we get, the more difficult it is for our bodies to regulate temperature; it takes longer to warm up as we lose muscle mass and our immune systems become weaker. Often symptoms of health conditions including asthma, diabetes and arthritis can be exacerbated by the cold. More worryingly, cold temperatures can also have an impact on the heart and circulatory system increasing risks of heart attacks and strokes; not to mention the impact of cold, dreary weather has on people’s mental health which can affect our ability to take care of ourselves if we are feeling depressed. 

Age UK’s Charity Director, Caroline Abrahams comments: “During the winter older people are likely to spend more time at home than other age groups and are much more susceptible to the effects of the cold, particularly if they have pre-existing medical conditions. That’s why it’s so important that they can adequately heat their homes, helping them to stay well. The winter can have an adverse impact on older people’s mental health too. Darker, shorter days and less socialising place older people at greater risk of loneliness and isolation, which in turn can cause new mental health conditions like anxiety and depression to develop, as well as exacerbating any existing ones.

As the long winter continues, take action and check in on your elderly relatives and friends, pop the kettle on, have a cuppa and if you can, give them a few extra blankets to keep warm. 

We’ve put together a list of top tips for looking after someone else’s health, or your own this winter: 

  1. Keep moving – even if it’s indoors, simple exercise can keep you warm and well so go for a walk around the house, look out of the window, or do some arm and leg exercises from your chair
  2. Eat and drink well – try not to skip meals. Eating and drinking warm foods will help to keep you warm and give you strength; even a nice bowl of soup or winter broth would help!
  3. If you do go out, make sure you wash your hands, or use sanitiser if you are eating out and wash them when you come in – if only to warm those cold hands up.
  4. Make sure you are wearing plenty of layers, even if you are at home; and be sure to top up those layers if you go out!  And don’t forget your hat, scarf and gloves
  5. If you are worrying about the cost of heating your home, try to keep doors closed for the room you are in, and turn radiators off in the rooms you don’t use.  Also close the curtains once the sun has set to keep the drafts out and the warmth in.
  6. Keep your mind active – doing hobbies like puzzles, knitting, or even the daily crossword quiz in the paper are all great ways to keep your mind busy
  7. Use a hot water bottle, or heat bag to keep your body warm if you are sitting still for long periods.
There is more information available on the AgeUK website, or to read more information specifically on looking after the elderly and vulnerable, click here.

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