Advice for elderly people in cold weather conditions
Many parts of the country are set to experience some very cold weather over the next couple of days. While this brings the exciting prospect of snow to some areas, for most it means freezing temperatures, ice and rain.
While these conditions are troublesome for those of us with commutes and other journeys to make, they can be dangerous for older and more vulnerable people. That’s why we are urging people to check in with older relatives and neighbours to ensure that they stay safe and well at this time of year.
There are many reasons why this kind of weather can have an adverse effect on the health of older people. As we age, we take longer to warm up if we get cold, so staying warm is a priority. This means making sure that homes are at the right temperature. Close doors to keep the heat in and use excluders around doorways where a draught may come in. Windows should be closed overnight to prevent breathing in cold air, and closing the curtains can help to keep a room warm. A thermometer in the main living and sleeping areas can ensure that the house doesn’t get too cold.
As well as these environmental suggestions, there are practical ways to stay warm too. Layering up clothing is good, as you can always take something off if you get too warm. Close-fitting base layers are great for maintain body temperature, and when outside, a hat, gloves and scarf can prevent too much cold air reaching the body. Warm drinks and a hot meal help to raise the body temperature from the inside, so make sure that the house is well stocked with the essentials. Finally, always keep moving around as this helps the body to stay warm, even if it’s just pottering around the house.
The cold weather can also introduce external hazards to watch out for. When there is ice or snow, pathways can become more dangerous, particularly for those who use walking aids. If you can, grit the path around the main ways in and out of the house to give a better surface to walk on. Help an older person to go about their daily activities safely, although in extreme weather it is best not to make journeys unless they are essential. When it’s hard to get out and about, loneliness can become a problem too, so call in or make a phone call to older family members to give them some company.
Make sure that older people are aware of and receiving any help that they are entitled to towards heating costs or home improvements, such as loft insulation, as making the home more energy-efficient will help in the long term.
Preparation is important, so keep an eye on local weather reports, make sure that homes are well stocked with food essentials and water, and that warm clothes are easily accessible.
Age UK has launched a practical guide on cold weather preparations and ways to stay warm and healthy, which can be downloaded from its website.