There’s a lot to love about winter. It’s home to many of our favourite holidays, a season of cosy nights in, and a time to get together and create memories with loved ones. However, it’s also a season that comes with its unique challenges – especially for the elderly who are more vulnerable to issues caused by the cold winter months.
How should the elderly prepare for winter? While there are many elements to take into account, we’d say it comes down to two main considerations: staying warm and staying safe. Here, we’re going to provide practical ways you can prepare to make these things easier when the temperature drops. That way, you can focus instead on enjoying a wonderful winter.
Tips for staying warm during winter
Our first piece of preparation advice is very simple: please don’t underestimate the dangers cold weather can present. Age UK estimated that in 2018, excess winter deaths equated to 379 older people (that’s 65 years and over) every day. This isn’t said to cause stress, but to impress upon everyone reading this the importance of viewing your warmth not just as an issue of comfort, but one of the greatest safety importance.
More specifically, here are five other things you can do to keep warm this winter season:
1. Prepare your home
Your home protects you from the elements and there are a few simple things you can do to prepare it for winter. You should shut your curtains on a night, for instance, to keep the warm in your rooms. There are also the likes of draft excluders, which close the gaps at the bottom of doors where warm air can escape. These really simple steps that can make a massive difference.
2. Optimise your heating
Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do about the rising costs of heating. However, we can advise you to make the most out of your heating. For instance, check if your radiators need bleeding, as this could prevent them from warming up properly.
You may also use timers, so you don’t need to sit in the cold waiting for your home to warm up or waste the warmth when you’re not at home. Even moving some furniture away from radiators (safely, of course – get help if you need it) can prevent warm air from being blocked.
3. Get regular exercise
Not only is physical exercise extremely important for older adults generally, but it can also keep us warm by boosting our circulation. Even very light exercise can have a big impact, so it’s important to do whatever you can manage – however much or little that might be.
4. Have hot food and drinks on standby
One of the best things about winter is being able to enjoy delicious and comforting hot foods and drinks. So, have cups of tea ready to go and ensure that you’re well stocked with easy to cook warming meals, like stews or soups.
5. Keep your body warm
Don’t just consider how to heat your home, but yourself as well. Cosy clothes are a good place to start. Ensure you’ve got everything you need – from jumpers to big winter socks and slippers – and dress in layers to keep yourself warm.
You could also look into getting a heated blanket, which isn’t just effective but is also typically cheaper than central heating.
Tips for staying safe during winter
While staying warm is an important safety consideration for the elderly in winter, it’s not the only factor to take into account. Our tips here are a more general look at other things you can easily do to keep safe and enjoy the season:
1. Get your Flu jab and Covid boosters
If you’re over 65, there’s a good chance you can get a free flu jab from your GP. In addition, you may be eligible to get a booster to further protect you against Covid if you haven’t had one already. Both of these simple vaccinations can help prevent serious illness.
2. Keep up with your medication
Mobility issues can be exacerbated during the winter months, which means it may be tough for some people to collect vital prescriptions. If that’s the case, all you need to do is call up your pharmacy and ask if that medication can be delivered instead. Don’t go without – the solution is as simple as a phone call.
3. Avoid slippery surfaces
As we get older, the potential for a simple fall to cause great injury or distress becomes much more likely. This is especially true in winter when icy and wet paths can create greater risks. Avoid them as much as possible. Also, consider installing a handrail and buying footwear with non-slip soles.
4. Pay attention to the weather
One way of avoiding unexpected safety issues is simply to pay attention to the weather forecasts. This can allow you to plan your days with safety in mind, and not get caught off guard by unforeseen hazards.
5. Stay social
While winter can be a time of togetherness for many, for others, it’s sadly very isolating. Age UK report that over a million older people say they go a month without speaking to any friends, neighbours, or family members.
Loneliness in older people is recognised by the NHS as a serious health issue. So, try to maintain contact with friends and family through those winter months. If you’re still struggling, there are several charities should as Re-engage, The Silver Line, Independent Age and Age UK which can provide assistance in combating loneliness.
There are, of course, other safety considerations – many of which are unique to ourselves, based on our distinct health needs and living situations. So, consider these tips alongside any additional requirements you may have.
We hope all this advice helps in preparing for a winter we can all safely enjoy.