Occupational therapist’s top tips for older people battling heating bills
Kate Sheehan, occupational therapist for stairlift and home lift company Stannah, shares tips for those in later life struggling to battle energy bills.
As the cost of living continues to rise, we are all looking for ways to reduce our household spending. For many people, the first step in this has been to reduce energy costs by using less heating. However, this can impact our health, wellbeing and immune systems.
For older people or those with long-term health conditions, this can have an additional impact. As we get older or our health fluctuates, we may respond to cold temperatures differently, finding ourselves getting cold more easily or unable to maintain our body heat. This can leave us with an increased risk of infection and susceptibility to contracting those ever-present winter bugs.
Below are some helpful, quick and low-cost ways to keep warm at home:
Switching heating off
Do you have a spare bedroom that's only used for storage or a dining room that's only for when the company visits? Switch off the heating in rooms you don't routinely use to ensure you are focussing the resource where it is most needed.
Open any curtains during the day, especially when there is winter sun, as this can help heat the rooms, then close them at dusk to keep it in during the evening when the temperature drops. Invest in lined curtains or place curtains over main doors to help retain the warmth. Alternatively, put draft excluders down and keep internal doors shut so you don't lose heat to those draftier areas.
Set your thermostat
Keeping the thermostat to a steady temperature can be better for your body and your budget. Having the heating on low for longer can be more effective at regulating heat than placing it on a higher setting for a shorter period to "take the edge off". Depending on the heating type, it is more efficient and cost-effective to use a portable, electric or oil heater to top up the room temperature rather than turning up the thermostat.
Wear multiple layers of clothes
Wearing multiple layers of clothing can help to trap heat, such as wearing fleece jumpers or thermal socks. Slippers and blankets can also provide additional layers, and by keeping your feet up, you will avoid any drafts from under the doors.
Items like hot water bottles and microwaveable heat pads can help with any particularly cold snaps. If you use anything like an electric blanket, be sure to follow the manual and get them checked regularly to ensure they are safe to use.
Use a flask
Warm yourself from the inside with hot drinks and use a flask to reduce the number of times you boil the kettle. Remember to eat at regular intervals and try to include fresh fruit and vegetables, as this can support your immune system. Meals like porridge, soups and stews are not only warming but cheap to make, and they too can be kept in a flask.
Take advantage of any free or discounted immunisations, such as the flu jab, as this may reduce the impact if you become unwell. Order any repeat prescriptions in good time, so you don't run out if the weather gets bad or postal strikes affect their delivery. Many GP practices and pharmacies offer a delivery service if you need it.
Make sure you access any support you may be entitled to, such as warmer home grants and governmental energy payments. Services like your Local Authority or the Citizens Advice Bureau will help you understand eligibility criteria and navigate any application processes.
Our tolerances for the cold will be different; what helps one person may not help another, but hopefully, this will offer some ideas and a place to start so you can keep warm and safe this winter. Remember, your health should always be a priority – so seek support where you can.