With the days getting shorter and colder, it is nearing the time of year when we need to start thinking about how to keep the cold out of our homes. To help you out, Age-net has put together this useful guide to keeping warm this winter.
As we get older, the body’s response to cold temperatures changes. Keeping your home warm is important because it can reduce the risk of health risks, such as the flu and low blood pressure. The flu and other respiratory conditions are widespread during the winter months, and keeping a warm home can make sure that they don’t develop into more serious conditions like pneumonia and bronchitis. Having high blood pressure can put you at more risk of heart attacks and strokes. As you get older, your body tends to take longer to return itself to a regular blood pressure after being exposed to colder temperatures, so returning to a warm home can help your body to stabilise sooner.
What you can do to Prepare for Winter
There are few things that you can do to prepare yourself for the cold snap:
• Make sure there are no problems with your heating (see the next section for more information).
• Make sure your home is stocked with over-the-counter cold/flu medication.
• Make sure your flu jab is up to date. If not, make an appointment for a booster. You can find out more information and check to see if you are eligible for a free jab at the NHS website.
• Ensure any repeat prescriptions are ordered in advance, as the weather could change at any time and affect when you can leave your house. You could also enquire as to whether your pharmacy offers a pick-up and delivery service.
• Make sure you dress warmly, with plenty of layers. Wear sensible footwear with non-slip soles for icy conditions.
• Keep a healthy diet and make sure to exercise regularly to keep your body in the best shape to fight the cold. Age UK have an excellent resource for advice on healthy eating.
• Stock up on basic food items in case of bad weather which may prevent you from visiting the supermarket.
• Keep a supply of salt/sand to apply to icy paths or steps.
• Consider fitting a grab rail to outdoor steps. You can find more information on choosing grab rails on the Disabled Living Foundation’s informative fact sheet.
Heating Your Home
Get to know your heating system
It is important that you familiarise yourself with how your heating system works. The thermostat and the timer will be your most-used features during the winter months. It’s best to set your timer to heat your home earlier if you begin to feel cold. This will ensure that your home will be warm in the future, minimising your exposure to colder temperatures.
Make sure individual thermostats are set to the right temperature in rooms you spend a lot of time in:
• The recommended temperature for your living room is at least 70°F/21°C.
• The recommended temperature for the rest of your home is at least 64°F/18°C.
• If you still feel cold at these settings, make sure you turn up the temperature until you are comfortable.
• Make sure your heating system has recently been serviced. You should think about doing this in advance of winter, to ensure that everything is fully functional for the months you will need it most.
Financial Assistance with your Heating Bill
Keeping your home heated throughout the winter can prove to be very expensive. There are a number of ways you may be eligible for financial assistance:
• Most people over 60 are eligible for the Winter Fuel Payment, which can go towards paying your heating bills. The payment ranges from £100 to £300 and is available between November and December. You can get more information on the government’s website here.
• If you receive Pension Credit you are eligible for a Cold Weather Payment when the temperature reaches 0°C for seven days in a row. You will receive this payment automatically.
• As well as a Cold Weather Payment, if you are eligible for Pension Credit you may also be entitled to a Warm Homes Discount. The Warm Homes discount is a one-off discount between October and March.
• The Energy Companies Obligation Scheme is designed to help you if you have a low income and receive means-tested benefits like Pension Credit, or live in a house that is costly to make energy efficient.
• You may also be eligible for assistance from the Energy Saving Trust to make your home more energy efficient. Call the Energy Saving Trust on 0300 123 1234 or Home Heat Helpline on 0800 33 66 99 for advice.
Many people around the country, especially in rural areas, rely on oil to heat their homes. Oil has proven to be a reliable fuel that will give you dependable heat, and prices have remained favourable compared to other fuels.
• You can save money on oil by organising or participating in a community oil buying group. By ordering fuel in bulk, you can save money and you won’t waste time having to price oil up yourself.
• You can save money by buying your oil in the summer when fuel prices are lower due to less demand.
• Choose a reliable distributor for your oil. Membership in the Federation of Petroleum Suppliers (FPS) is a sign that they promote a high standard of service. You can use the Oil save website’s Distributor Search to find a local company.
• Make sure your oil tank is secure as oil can be a valuable resource. Rix Petroleum have some very useful advice on protecting your oil tank from thieves.