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Staying well over winter

Age UK Islington Social Prescribing Link Worker

Published on 31 October 2023 01:05 PM

Staying well over winter

Olivia is a Social Prescribing Link Worker at Age UK Islington. She is one of the team of  Age UK Islington caseworkers who support people who need information, guidance and support to overcome day-to-day problems. 

She talks about her work helping Islington residents to stay well during the winter.

Tell me a bit about your work. What does a social prescriber do?

We are part of the Age UK Islington team, but based in GP Practices. We help people with any day-to-day issues or concerns - this could be with money worries, managing at home, getting out-and-about or finding social groups. 

Many GPs report they spend a lot of time dealing with housing issues, debt, stress, loneliness, and physical inactivity.  That’s where we come in – to provide support when traditional health interventions aren’t the most effective solution.

What are some of the biggest challenges people face over winter?

Covid-19 is still a threat and we should all take precautions to reduce the risk, especially for those who are more vulnerable. Similarly with flu – it’s not just unpleasant, it can also develop into something more serious, such as pneumonia.

Inflation in food prices is still high, home heating costs are still high and in the winter, people often find it harder to get out. The combination of these stresses and strains and less social contact can have a massive impact on how we feel, and sometimes our ability to cope.

If you are affected by these issues, please reach out for help via the Age UK Islington helpline, we’re here to help all adults of all ages. From applying for benefits and grants, to food banks and community activities, there is so much support available if you ask for it.

Do you also offer health advice when you’re working with people?

We talk to people about where they can find information and services that can help with managing a specific condition. This is the sort of thing that a GP might not have time to talk about and often people are not aware of what’s available.

We’ll also let people know about the boosters for Covid-19 and flu, direct them to more information and where needed, help them to book. Older people, people with certain health conditions or carers can contact their GP, a pharmacist or use the national booking system for an appointment. We can give them a helping hand if they need to book an appointment and work out how to get there.

How important is it that people are able to stay warm at home during the winter?

A drop in temperature can affect our body’s ability in fighting off viruses and infections, so to keep well you have to keep warm.

As we get older, our bodies respond differently to the cold which can leave us more vulnerable to health problems. Cold weather can also be particularly dangerous if you have breathing problems, reduced mobility, a low immune system or circulatory conditions.

But with a little preparation, you can stay healthy, safe and comfortable at home this winter.

What advice do you give to people who are struggling to keep their heating on at a safe level because of expensive energy bills?

Age UK Islington can provide guidance about how to maximise the money you have coming in and to make sure you’re receiving any discounts and grants that you’re entitled to. 

Many older people do not apply for Pension Credit, as sometimes people think it’s not worth it. If you qualify for Pension Credit, this can also open-up many other benefits, so it’s definitely worth doing.

If you are having problems paying your energy bills topping up your pre-payment meter, contact your energy supplier and Age UK Islington for support should you need it. It’s important that you do this as soon as you start to get in trouble. 

Do you have any tips to help people look after their mental health during winter?

The winter months can be difficult, so make sure you're looking after your mental health, just as you do your physical health.

It can help to build socialising into your day, even in small ways. Try to get out of the house every day, even just for a short walk.

Age UK Islington offers a range of regular social events in different community venues across Islington. We can help you to find a local social group that’s right for you and how to get there.

Contact Age UK Islington:

Call the helpline: 020 7281 6018 (Monday - Friday, 9am – 5pm)

More information about winter health:

How to Get Winter vaccines

This includes details of walk-in clinics in Islington.

Age UK: Winter Guide

Including practical tips and guidance.

Keep active & socially connected:

Age UK Islington Get Togethers

Activities in Islington Parks