In the sixth of a series of articles looking at the work of Age UK Redbridge, Barking and Havering, Priti Mistry offers more advice on how older people can prepare themselves for the winter season.
Now that winter is upon us, most homes will have had the heating switched on for several months. However, for some older people on a low income, they sadly end up leaving their heating off to make ends meet and to be able to manage their money. Therefore, I want to share some tips that will help us all to get through the colder days and months.
Keeping warm indoors
If you’re sitting down, wrap up with a shawl or blanket. You could even pop your feet up on something as the air’s cooler at ground level. If you struggle to stay warm in bed, socks and even a hat can really help you keep warm. Use a hot water bottle, heat bag or an electric blanket to warm the bed – but never use a hot water bottle and an electric blanket together.
Keeping your home warm
Lower temperatures increase the risk of flu and other breathing problems and can raise your blood pressure. When you’re older, your blood pressure takes longer to return to normal once you get cold, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The colder your home, the higher the risk to your health. Close your curtains at dusk to keep the heat in. You may even want to fit thermal linings to them if you can. Keep the rooms you spend the most time in warm. It might seem obvious, but make the most of individual radiator thermostats and keep the temperature higher in the rooms you use most.
Get a personal alarm
Winter can knock our confidence. You may not feel as steady on your feet, or you may feel a little more isolated than usual. A personal alarm can help reassure you and loved ones. If you fall or you’re unwell, it connects you to a 24-hour call centre. You simply press a button on a pendant you wear around your neck or wrist and talk to someone who will contact a chosen person to help you – usually a neighbour, friend or relative or the emergency services. London Borough of Redbridge run the Lifeline & Telecare service, helping Redbridge residents to live independently in their own homes (call 020 8708 5897).
Extra help with heating costs
It can be tempting to keep the heating off and struggle through the cold to keep bills down. But there are benefits and discounts available to help you keep your home warm. Most people born before 6 April 1954 are entitled to the Winter Fuel Payment in 2019–2020 to help with heating costs. This is a tax-free payment of between £100 and £300 paid to you between November and December (call 0800 731 0214). If you’re finding it difficult to keep up with your energy bills, get in touch with your supplier. You might be able to set up a repayment plan or have a prepayment meter installed.