Age Action, Ireland’s leading advocacy organisation for older people, has urged the Government to consider a double payment in the Fuel Allowance this week to help older people on low incomes stay warm during Storm Emma.
With between 1,500 and 2,000 excess winter deaths in Ireland every year cold weather can be dangerous for older people, particularly those who might live alone.
Older people are at greater risk of cardiovascular and respiratory illness from cold and damp houses and tend to live in older, less energy efficient, homes.
Justin Moran, Head of Advocacy and Communications with Age Action, said: “Many older people have trouble heating their homes at the best of times. They can be very nervous about keeping the heat on because they are afraid of rising energy bills.
“The best way to ensure older people aren’t afraid to keep the heat on during this cold weather is to announce a one-off, double-payment, of the Fuel Allowance.
“This would give them the assurance they need that keeping warm isn’t going to mean bills they cannot pay.”
In Britain a special Cold Weather Payment of £25 a week is made when temperatures drop below freezing for a number of days to help people on low incomes.
Advice for older people
The organisation also has some advice for older people and their neighbours on how to cope with the falling temperatures.
Justin Moran, Head of Advocacy and Communications with Age Action, said: “We’d be encouraging our members to stay indoors, make sure their home is properly heated and to wear additional layers of clothing.
“If the weather gets worse snow and ice add to the problem as many may not be able to get out to buy food, fuel or to pick up prescriptions.
“We would really urge family, friends and neighbours to check in on any older people they know living nearby, particularly those who may be living alone or have difficulty getting out and about.
“Dropping in to say hello or a quick phone call to make sure everything is okay will always be welcome.”
In order to stay well and warm this winter older people should also take the following steps:
- Dress warmly – 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.
- Seal gaps around windows and doors.
- Remain in contact with your family and friends, including other older people.