As we get older, our bodies react differently to cold weather and can make us more likely to develop illnesses or other health problems. But by following a few simple steps and planning ahead you can stay warm and safe this winter.
How do I stay healthy during winter?
Staying active during winter is paramount to keeping your healthy but will also help keep you warm. If it’s not too cold, you could take a short walk in the middle of the day. If you’re staying in for the day, look for other ways you can keep active be it armchair exercises or daily chores.
Flu is a serious risk to older people during winter and it’s constantly changing so it’s important to get a flu jab every year.
You can get a free flu jab from your GP if:
- you’re over 65
- have certain medical conditions
- receive a carer’s allowance, or you are the main carer for an older or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill.
Check with the NHS to see if you are eligible.
Some ways to stay warm during winter include:
- wearing layers of clothing, rather than one chunky layer
- using a hot water bottle or electric blanket in bed – just don’t use both at the same time
- try not to sit still for more than one hour is you’re indoors
- keep your bedroom window closed at night as this is the coldest time of the day
- close your curtains in the evenings to keep the heat in.
The NHS recommends keeping your home heated to at least 18C throughout the day, this can be set with a timer and thermostat on your heating system. If you’ve not had your heating system serviced for over a year you should get it checked by a professional so that it works efficiently throughout winter. Some energy suppliers have a Priority Services Register which gives older people extra support and help during winter so be sure to ask.
Keep your medication in order
Ordering you prescriptions ahead of time will ensure you don’t run out of any medication over winter. If you’re unable to collect your prescription due to mobility or weather issues, ask your pharmacy if they can deliver your medication to you.
It’s also a good idea to keep some cold and flu remedies at home just in case you start to feel unwell.
Keep your spirits up
Feeling down during winter isn’t unusual, especially as the days get shorter. Try to do something you enjoy everyday, be it watching your favourite TV show, completing a crossword or heading out for a coffee.
If you’re unable to go out, or your friends and family can’t visit, organise a regular phone call or Skype chat to stay in touch.
How do I stay safe during winter?
Stay up to date
Each day the Met Office provides weather forecasts on radio, TV and in the paper, so listen in or check on these bulletins regularly to stay up to date with the weather in your area. Knowing what weather conditions are on the horizon can help you prepare for anything unexpected like ice, snow, high winds, flooding, storms etc.
Take care when driving
If your car comes with winter tyres you should get them changed at your local garage to increase the level of grip when driving. It’s also good idea to keep warm clothes, water, food and tools in your car during winter in case you get in to any trouble on the roads or breakdown.
When travelling medium to long distances it is wise to tell someone where you’re going and what time you expect to arrive, if anything changes having a fully charged mobile will ensure you can get in touch with someone so they don’t start to worry.
Be careful of icy or wet surfaces
Walking can be just a risky as driving during winter, but with a few precautions you can stay safe and confident when out and about.
- invest in some winter shoes, boots and slippers with non-slip soles
- consider installing a hand rail if you have steps or a slope at your front or back door
- ask your family to grit the paths and steps around your house for added grip.
Plan for an emergency
An emergency could be anything from a fall to your heating system failing. Having a plan in case anything should happen to you through winter is vitally important.
- keep a list of emergency numbers, such as family and utility companies, by your phone
- keep a torch handy in case you lose power
- don’t block air vents or hang washing close to a fire/electric heater
- test your smoke alarms
- keep your mobile phone charged
- tell you neighbours if you’re on your own and worried about the cold weather.
How can I keep my older relatives/neighbours safe in winter?
As children, friends and neighbours we are ale to help older people keep warm and safe during winter. Regularly checking in to make sure they’re safe and well, have enough food and are warm will give reassurance not only to you but to older people too.
If you are worried about a relative or older person contact the NHS, your local GP or local council.