In the UK, the cold winter months have been associated with a significant increase in mortality, especially among the elderly. Fuel poverty charity, National Energy Action says that based on modelling by the World Health Organisation, cold homes caused 4,020 excess winter deaths last year in England and Wales.
That’s 45 people per day in winter months. The cold weather, typified by an average minimum temperature of 0.9°C and maximum temperature of 6.56°C during winter, with an average of 11.2 days of air frost each month, is indeed a significant challenge for elderly friends and relatives.
Oak Tree Mobility, a mobility expert, shares five tips on how the elderly can stay warm during cold winter:
- Indoor heating. Ensuring a warm indoor environment is crucial for the elderly during winter. It’s advisable to keep the heating on at a consistent temperature, especially in the living room and bedroom. According to the NHS, setting the thermostat to at least 18°C (64°F) can help keep the living space warm and comfortable for seniors. Additionally, investing in good quality insulation and draft excluders can further retain heat and lower energy bills.
- Layered clothing. Dressing in layers can help trap body heat, making it an effective way to stay warm. Encourage seniors to wear multiple layers of clothing, such as thermal undergarments, fleece jackets, and woollen sweaters. Additionally, wearing a hat, gloves, and warm socks can provide extra warmth, especially during the colder parts of the day.
- Hot meals and drinks. Consuming hot meals and beverages can provide immediate warmth and also keep the body energized. Encourage elderly individuals to have regular warm meals and drinks throughout the day. Soups, stews, teas, and coffees are great options to maintain body temperature and ensure proper nutrition during winter.
- Physical activity. Regular physical activity can help increase body temperature and improve blood circulation, which is particularly beneficial for the elderly in cold weather. Simple exercises, stretching, or even short walks around the house can make a difference.
- Health check-ups and medication management. Winter can exacerbate existing health conditions in the elderly. It’s essential to schedule regular health check-ups to monitor any changes in their health status. Managing medication effectively, especially for conditions like asthma or arthritis, which can worsen with cold weather, is crucial. Having a plan in place with healthcare providers to manage these conditions can help ensure a safer and warmer winter for seniors.
The colder months can be quite unforgiving, especially for older individuals whose immune systems are not as robust. They are at a higher propensity to fall ill or experience discomfort due to the harsh weather conditions. The cold can exacerbate existing health issues, or introduce new challenges like hypothermia, joint pain, and flu, among others. Hence, the responsibility falls on family members and caregivers to ensure a warm, comfortable, and health-conscious environment for their elderly loved ones.
The transition through winter can be made significantly less daunting for the elderly with a thoughtful approach to their care. By adhering to these simple yet effective measures, we can ensure that our elderly family members traverse through the winter months in a state of comfort, warmth, and good health, thereby enhancing their quality of life during a season that can otherwise be quite challenging.