With fuel bills on the rise, the prospect of a long, cold winter is a major concern for many, particularly the elderly who are vulnerable to the chill. If you are worried about how to keep warm this winter, here are a few tips.
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As tempting as that thick woolly jumper may be, layers are the key to keeping warm. Several thinner layers will trap warm air close to the body, and clothes made from wool, cotton, polyester or fleecy synthetic fibres work best. Thermal underwear works wonders, but if money's tight, thick tights or long socks will still make a big difference.
If you feel the chill whilst indoors, don't be stoic - wrap up further with a hat or scarf, and be sure to wear a warm pair of slippers with grip to help protect you against falls.
In very cold weather, thermal underwear, bed socks and a hat will keep you warm in bed, while a cosy blanket or shawl will provide extra warmth if you are sitting for any length of time.
Long periods of inactivity will leave you feeling the cold, so if possible try to move around every now and again. Simple activities such as vacuuming or walking to the shops will raise your body temperature, although avoid going outdoors if it is very cold. For those who have difficult walking, try to move your arms and legs, fingers and toes to help keep the chill away, and keep your feet up where possible as the air will be considerably cooler at ground level.
Burning the calories you've eaten keeps your body warm, so eating properly is essential in the colder months. Regular hot meals containing plenty of carbs like potatoes, pasta or rice are a good choice, as are soups and stews. Porridge for breakfast is a cheap way to keep your energy levels up, and protein from fish and meat will provide energy.
Fruit and vegetables are a must as they will give you essential vitamins and nutrients to make sure you stay healthy. And remember - tinned fruit or frozen veg is just as good as fresh, so try to stock up the cupboards so that you don't have to struggle to shops if it's cold outside. Regular hot drinks will help to stave off the chill between meals.
If you struggle to cook at home, contact your local council and check whether Meals on Wheels can provide daily hot meals in your area.
Help the Aged advise that the ideal temperature is 21 degrees Celsius so try to keep those most-used rooms at that warmth. If the temperature falls below 16 degrees Celsius, the elderly are at greater risk of hypothermia, heart attach or stroke.
The most important areas to keep warm are the living room and the bedroom, so even if you heat just the two rooms, do so. Alternatively, keep your living room warm and set the heating to come on before you go to bed and get up so that you don't feel the chill overnight and when you wake in the morning.
If paying the bills is a real problem, a last resort may be to use just one room, but if that seems the only option, ask friends or relatives to move your bed into the living room to ensure you still get a good night's sleep.
Remember to draw the curtains as the night draws in, as it will keep the heat in and the draughts out, and if possible, put a curtain across doors for the same reason.
Of course, there are many ways to not only keep your home warmer but to cut energy bills too. Proper insulation, double glazing and a heating system in good working order will all make your home more energy efficient, and there are grants available for those who can't afford more expensive measures. Contact the government-funded Warm Front on 0800 316 2805 to see if you are eligible for help.
There is also help available for those struggling to pay fuel bills, including the Winter Fuel Payment and Cold Weather Payments that could make a big difference. If you get Pension Credit you should already receive the latter, but to claim Winter Fuel Payments, call or ask a relative to call the helpline on 0845 915 1515.
For the elderly, staying warm in winter is about more than just comfort. If you are worried or know someone who is vulnerable, don't hesitate to contact Age UK on 0800 169 6565 for more advice and information on the help available.