Age Action urges communities to play their part during cold weather

Age Action is urging communities to play their part to ensure that their older neighbours remain safe and well in their homes during the current cold spell of weather.

“Cold weather can kill and does kill in Ireland, making the winter a particularly challenging period for older people in particular” Age Action spokesman Eamon Timmins said. “Snow and ice  make that challenge even greater as many older people may not be able to get out to buy food, fuel or medical supplies.”

With a number of parts of Ireland experiencing snow falls in recent days and more snow and icy conditions forecast for the coming days, the older people’s charity is urging everyone to play their part. “If there is an older person living in your neighbourhood we would encourage you to call or phone them to check if they need anything,” Mr Timmins said.

Older people can also play a role in ensuring they remain well and warm in their homes by making themselves aware of practical steps they can take.  Maintaining a comfortable temperature in the rooms they are living in is essential at this time of year. It should be about 21 degrees Celsius in the room they are living in and 18 degrees in other rooms.  “If you are struggling to afford to heat your home, concentrate on heating your bedroom and the other rooms you live in,” Mr Timmins said.

“The temperature in your home is crucial,” Mr Timmins said. “Medical research has found that when temperatures fall below 16 degrees Celsius there is an increased risk of respiratory problems.  Where it drops below 12 degrees, the blood thickens and there is an increased risk of stroke and heart attack.”

“The cold can kill,” Mr Timmins said. “Between 1,500 and 2,000 excess deaths occur during the winter in Ireland, compared to the summer.  Many of these are older people who die as a result of respiratory illness or cardiovascular disease. The cold weather, inadequate heating, low incomes and poorly insulated homes are contributory factors in some of these deaths.”

In order to stay well and warm this winter older people should also take the following steps:

  • Dress correctly – wear layers, rather than one thick layer of clothing.  Maybe wear a woollen or fleece hat in bed;
  • Remain active – don’t stay sitting for long periods. Spread your chores throughout the day to ensure to keep moving around your home;
  • Eat well – have at least one hot meal a day. Sip hot drinks regularly.  Keep a flask of hot drink by the bed, in case you wake up cold;
  • Make sure you use your free electricity or gas units, if you receive the Household Benefits package;
  • Seal gaps around windows and doors.  Insulate your home;
  • Remain in telephone contact with your family and friends, including other older people.