An older couple walks hand in hand down a tree lined path in winter.

Staying warm in winter

One of the challenges we face every year is the onset of the winter blues. Keeping warm and happy during the winter months is essential when it comes to maintaining a positive attitude and avoiding illness.

Prepare for winter 

In some parts of the country, winter can arrive surprisingly early! Here are some things you can do to prepare for the colder weather: 

  • Have your heating system serviced once a year to ensure it’s running safely and efficiently. (NOTE: Gas heating should be serviced by a qualified and registered Gas Safe engineer.)
  • Make sure you know where your main stopcock is and check that it’s easy to turn. If it is jammed, you may need to replace it. 
  • If you have an electric blanket, make sure it is serviced at least every three years.
  • Check your smoke alarm to see if it is working. You can ask your local fire service to check your home for fire safety. It’s free, and you may be eligible to get free smoke alarms fitted.
  • Install an audible carbon monoxide alarm in each room that has a gas or solid fuel burning appliance.
  • Ask your family or friends if they can call or visit you more often if there’s an extended period of cold weather.
  • Think about fitting a grab rail if you have steps at your front or back door. Ask your local Age UK or Care and Repair if you live in Scotland. 
  • Consider having a yearly flu jab. It’s free if you’re over 65. Also if you have not had the pneumo (or pneumococcal) jab, you should consider having it. It’s a one off and can prevent some very serious infections. 
  • Order repeat prescriptions in plenty of time, particularly if bad weather is in the forecast. Ask your local pharmacy if it offers a prescription pick-up and delivery service.
  • Stock your cupboard or freezer with basic food items in case it’s too cold to go shopping. You could also think about doing your food shopping online and getting it delivered to your door. 
  • Keep a torch handy in case you lose power, and make sure your radio, mobile phone, laptop or tablet are fully charged so you can use the battery power if there’s no electricity.
  • Make sure you have plenty of extra batteries on hand. 
  • If you don’t already have a personal alarm, you should consider buying one. They are extremely handy in case you need to call for help.
  • Keep a list of important telephone numbers by your telephone. These should include your gas supplier, electricity supplier, water supplier, plumber, your local pharmacy, your GP practice, your local synagogue, Jewish Care and your local Age UK.

Warm clothing basics

    How you dress will make a big difference in terms of your comfort.

    • Wear plenty of thin layers, rather than one thick jumper. 
    • Wear clothes made of wool or fleecy synthetic fibres, rather than cotton.
    • If you are sitting down, wrap yourself in a shawl or blanket to keep warm. It is also a good idea to keep your feet up. 
    • At night, wear bed socks and thermal underwear, and when it’s very cold, you should wear a hat, as most heat is lost through the head.

    If you are going out, ideal clothes to wear would be trousers, socks or thick tights, a scarf, hat and gloves. 

    If you wear boots, choose boots with non-slip soles and a warm lining—or wear thermal socks.

    General health suggestions

    In addition to dressing properly, there are several things related to your general health that you should be aware of during the colder months.

    Keep moving 

    Staying active is essential for wellbeing and fitness, and it also helps to generate heat. If you are unable to get out, try not to sit still for more than an hour; get up and walk around your home or move around in a safe way. Chair exercises can be very beneficial, and moving your arms and legs and wriggling your toes every so often will help you keep warm.

    Eat well 

    A balanced diet will help you keep warm and healthy throughout the year, and you should have some fruit and vegetables each day. 

    Ideally, you should have at least one hot meal a day. In addition, hot drinks will help to keep you warm. These can include a cup of tea—even better with a biscuit—or a bowl of soup. Why not try our healthy recipe for homemade chicken soup, also known as Jewish penicillin?

    Avoid chilblains 

    These are itchy red swellings that appear when the skin gets cold and you try to warm up too quickly by sitting close to a radiator or another source of heat.

    If they do appear, dab the swellings with calamine to reduce the itching. Your pharmacy will advise you on other suitable treatments.

    Keep the house warm

    These tips can help you warm where you live.

    • Heat your living room to around 70F (21C) and the rest of your home to 64F (18C).
    • Set the timer on your heating to come on before you get up and switch off when you go to bed.
    • In very cold weather, set the heating to come on earlier, rather than turning the thermostat up, so you won’t be cold whilst waiting for your home to heat up.

    During the night, there are a few extra things to consider in terms of safety.

    • Heat your bedroom before going to bed.
    • Keep the temperature at or above 65F (18C) in your bedroom.
    • If you use a heater in your bedroom, open the door a little at night for ventilation.
    • Avoid using an electric blanket with a hot water bottle to warm your bed as this can be dangerous. If you are using an electric blanket, check what type it is, as some are designed to warm the bed only before you get in. 
    • If using hot water bottles, remember to fill them with warm water and never with boiling water.
    • A hot drink before going to bed can be very beneficial.
    • Keep your bedroom window closed at night when the weather is cold.

    Help in paying for fuel costs

    While it's important to conserve energy and cut costs, your budget should not be more important than your comfort during the winter months. The following resources may help you spend your money more wisely.

    • Most people born on or before 5 August 1953 are entitled to a Winter Fuel Payment to help with heating costs. This is a tax-free payment of between £100 and £300 paid between November and December. If you have previously received a payment, it should happen automatically in the years that follow. However, if this is the first year that you are eligible, email the Winter Fuel Payment helpline to ensure you don’t miss out
    • If you receive Pension Credit or certain other benefits, you’re automatically paid a Cold Weather Payment when the temperature falls to 32F (OC) or below for seven days in a row. 
    • You may be entitled to a Warm Home Discount Scheme on your electricity bill if you receive the Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit or if you’re on a low income. It’s a one-off discount on your energy bill, usually made between October and March. Ask your energy supplier or Age UK for more information. 
    • You could save money on your heating by draught proofing doors and windows, insulating the loft and lagging the hot water tank and pipes. Cavity wall insulation will also save you money. These measures will keep you warm as well. You may be able to get financial help with these measures. In England and Wales, GOV.UK has its Green Deal: energy saving for your home programme. (NOTE: This programme is not available in Northern Ireland.) If you live in Scotland, Home Energy Scotland can give you advice about this. 
    • Your energy supplier should run a Priority Services Register that can give you support if you need it. Some of the types of services on offer may include the following: bills in large-print text or braille, free quarterly meter readings and a password scheme to protect you from cold callers. 
    • If you’re having trouble paying your bills, you should contact your energy supplier as soon as possible. If you live on a fixed income and need financial support for energy costs, Friends of the Elderly may be able to help you with a grant. You may also be entitled to financial help from the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) scheme if you’re on low income, receive certain means-tested benefits (such as Pension Credit) or live in a home that would be costly and difficult to make more energy efficient. Contact the Energy Saving Trust in England and Wales; in Scotland, check with Home Energy Scotland to find out more about this.
    • For additional information on getting support to heat your home, see the following Age UK free downloadable guides:

    Spring on the horizon 

    The shortest day of the year is the 21st of December. It is not the end of winter, but from that day onwards, the days begin to get a little bit longer, and we begin to pull out of winter and head towards spring. At the end of January, many of us will start to see daffodils—a glorious sight and warm reminder that spring is not that far away.

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