Age UK urges extra care as cold weather returns
Published on 11 March 2013 01:30 PM
As snow, ice and plummeting temperatures make an unwelcome return across the country, Age UK is urging older people to take extra precautions to stay safe and well over the coming days.
Cold weather is a huge source of worry to older people, posing increased health risks, loneliness and depression, as well as the financial pressure of escalating energy bills in order to stay warm. The particularly harsh winter we are currently experiencing has led to a sharp increase in the number of older people contacting Age UK for advice on surviving the cold conditions - having almost tripled compared to last year.
With tens of thousands of older people dying needlessly every year because of the cold, Age UK is warning that protection against the icy conditions is vital for older people who are particularly vulnerable to the impact of low temperatures:
- Even in relatively mild winters, there are around 8,000 extra deaths for every one degree drop in average temperature.
- Cold temperatures not only raise blood pressure which puts people at greater risk of heart attacks and strokes, they also increase the likelihood and severity of flu, chest infections and other respiratory problems.
4 key cold weather health tips for older people
Age UK has issued the following advice for older people this winter:
- It's harder to judge temperatures as you get older. Use a thermometer to detect changes and act quickly. Keep your living room at 70°F (21°c) if possible.
- It's a common misconception that sleeping with the window open all year round is healthy. Keeping windows open on a winter night puts you at greater risk of a heart attack or a stroke. Close your windows at night and keep your bedroom at 65°F (18°c).
- Protect your fingers, mouth and head. These parts of your body are more sensitive to changes in temperature. Breathing in cold air can increase your chances of becoming seriously ill. Wrap up well when you go outside.
- Stay ‘flu-free'. A bout of winter flu can be dangerous as well as unpleasant. If you can, visit your GP for a flu jab - free to over 65s - and keep warm and eat well to help ward off infection.
Cold homes clearly pose a serious health risk and with energy bills spiralling upwards, many older people will be struggling to heat their homes and could be missing out on essential extra support. Age UK is urging anyone who is worried about their heating bills to contact them for further information and advice.
For those in receipt of Pension Credit, a prolonged cold snap triggers one-off Cold Weather Payments worth £25 which could make all the difference when deciding whether to turn the heating up.
Check on older neighbours
Michelle Mitchell, Age UK's Charity Director General, said: 'While we know cold weather poses a serious physical health risk, it also prevents people getting out and about, leading to loneliness and depression. It is particularly important to remember older family, friends and neighbours at this time and check if they need any help with shopping or simply call in for a friendly chat.
'We are urging everyone to protect themselves by taking simple steps to stay healthy and safe, such as closing the bedroom window at night, keeping room temperature at 70°F (21°c) if at home during the day, and eating warm and nutritious meals.
'It's really important to keep as active as possible in the cold, but if people do venture outside, wrapping up well in plenty of layers and wearing warm shoes or boots with non-slip soles is essential, and keeping a mixture of salt and sand handy to put on steps or paths in icy weather could be very useful.'
How Age UK is Spreading the Warmth
Age UK is campaigning to put an end to thousands of older people dying each winter from preventable causes by calling on all local authorities to recognise the issue as a major health priority and make sure they are doing everything in their power to keep older people warm. Age UK also funds research to tackle some of the issues relating to ill health in winter, including immune system decline and falls prevention.
Older people and their families can call Age UK Advice on freephone 0800 169 65 65, where they can also order a free copy of ‘Winter Wrapped Up' with a free thermometer:
Download our free Winter Wrapped Up guide (PDF, 733kb)
There are lots of ways to help Age UK's Spread the Warmth. People can make a donation simply by calling 0800 169 87 87 or visiting www.spreadthewarmth.org.uk.