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Blog: Protecting your health and wellbeing in the colder months

Published on 18 October 2021 02:40 PM

Keeping your home cosy, particularly in colder weather, is about more than just comfort. Letting the temperature drop indoors can cause serious health problems in older people.

Living in cold or damp conditions can put older people at increased risk of flu and other respiratory illnesses, including chest infections. It can also lead to raised blood pressure, which in turn increases the likelihood of developing heart disease or having a stroke.

A recent report published by campaign group National Energy Action and E3G, an independent climate change think tank, claimed that 17,000 people died in the UK in 2018 because they couldn’t afford to heat their homes properly.

It is a shocking figure, but every year, vulnerable and older people are at risk due to living in homes that aren’t energy efficient and are too cold.

According to experts the ideal temperature for your home is between 18 and 21 degrees. Any colder and you could start to feel the adverse effects of the chill.

This year there is the added uncertainty and worry around energy costs. Soaring bills are likely to prove extremely challenging for many of the 270,000 pensioners in Scotland who live in relative or persistent poverty and will struggle to pay.

While it might be tempting to try to keep energy bills down by switching off the fire or turning down the heating, this could be harmful to older people’s health and wellbeing. As well as the physical health issues it can cause, it has a damaging effect on mental wellbeing.

There are better ways to keep your home warm and stay well, including insulating your home, installing double glazing and draught-proofing.

Organisations that can help are listed in our Warm and Well guide and information is available from our Helpline on 0800 12 44 222.

Once your home is warm, here are some other tips for generating heat during the coldest months:

Eat well

This is the time of year to indulge in nourishing soups and stews. Make sure you have at least one hot meal a day – to heat you from the inside. Drink plenty of hot drinks too. If you are concerned about costs, don’t cut back on food to pay energy bills or vice versa. Call our Helpline who can offer support and advice and run a free benefits entitlement check to ensure you’re receiving all the support you’re eligible for – 0800 12 44 222.

Stay active

Keeping active generates heat as well as being good for your health. Aim to move around once every hour, whether it’s getting up off the sofa to walk round your home a few times, trying some chair exercises or, if you have access to the internet, doing an accessible exercise class online. You can find more options in our Keeping Active in Later Life guide

Get outside

It might be the last thing you feel like doing on a dark winter’s day – but getting outside and breathing fresh air is good for your physical and mental health. Go for a walk and notice your surroundings – the trees swaying in the wind or the low light on buildings. Or head out to a local community group to meet friends and maybe try a new activity. Staying connected is important for our health and wellbeing too.

Have your jabs

The flu jab is available for all over 50s in Scotland this year so take up the offer. Likewise the booster Covid jabs are being rolled out. Vaccines won’t prevent you catching all the winter bugs that go around at this time of year but they will protect you from the worst effects, so don’t miss out.

Don’t go without help this winter; for advice and support on keeping warm, call the Age Scotland Helpline on 0800 12 44 222 (Monday – Friday, 9am to 5pm) and download our Warm and Well guide at www.age.scot/energy.

Make sure you’re not missing out on financial support - visit www.age.scot/CheckInCashOut to find out more #CheckInCashOut 

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