Age Action, one of Leinster’s four official charities, is urging the general public to keep in contact with their older neighbours…

Older people are reminded to take basic steps to protect themselves and ensure they remain well and warm in their homes, during the current bitterly cold weather.

It is important that older people do not venture out on icy footpaths and roads, unless it is absolutely necessary. However, this means that the rest of the community has to play its part by visiting older neighbours, relatives and friends. It is essential that communities also remember people who may not have any families and may be living alone.

“It is important that everyone plays their part to ensure that those who are frail or house-bound remain safe and well over this period,” Age Action spokesman Eamon Timmins said.

“We are reminding people to call in on their older neighbours to ensure they have enough fuel and basics such as milk and bread. Older people can also play their part by keeping in telephone contact with eachother and with their family and neighbours.”

Age Action – which is one of Leinster Rugby’s charities of the year — says the general public rallied around older people during the “Big Freeze” in January, and is urging people to remain as thoughtful and generous throughout the coming winter.

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,” Timmins said.

“The temperature in your home is crucial. 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. 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 take the following steps:

Dress correctly – wear multiple layers of thin clothing, 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. Exercise daily, but avoid risks in wet/icy conditions;
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;
Home – stock up provisions in case there is icy weather and you cannot go out;
Seal gaps around windows and doors. Insulate your home;
If you have not already received the winter flu vaccination from your doctor, make an appointment to do so today.

Age Action’s information line is open, 9.30am – 5.30pm, Monday to Friday, and is contactable at 01-4756989.