Looking Out For Older Neighbours During Cold Snap

Age Action is urging the general public to continue supporting older people in their community so that they do not have to venture out during the current freezing weather. 

“The response to date from the public has been fantastic, with communities rallying around to bring supplies of food, fuel and medicine to older people through the pro-longed freezing weather earlier this month, but it is important that complacency does not set in now as these visits could literally be life-saving trips,” Age Action spokesman Eamon Timmins said.

“Our message to older people is to remain in their homes so long as the paths and roadways are treacherous, but they can only do this if their neighbours support them by visiting with essential supplies.”

With Met Eireann predicting snow falls of up to 12 centimetres today and temperatures as low as minus 12 degrees tonight, we are facing into another pro-longed period of weather which will leave many older people house-bound.

“Periods of pro-longed cold weather pose a particular challenge for older people,” Mr Timmins said. “We are calling on the public to show the same generosity and community spirit that they did earlier this month, and to pay particular attention to visiting older people who are living alone.” 

In addition to bringing supplies, visitors are encouraged to offer to bring solid fuel from sheds and outhouse into the older person’s home.

Older people can also play a role in ensuring they remain well and warm in their homes. Maintaining a comfortable temperature in the rooms you are living in is essential at this time of year. It should be about 21 degrees Celsius in the room you 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 and does 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.