hot chocolate and cinnamon

Keeping warm this winter

Who would have thought that in this day and age, thousands of older people in the UK will die this winter as a result of the cold weather?

There were almost 44,000 “excess deaths” between last December and March – that is 27 per cent more people dying in the winter months compared with the non-winter months; the largest annual rise in such figures for almost five decades.

Although most who succumb to the cold are elderly, one in five are under 75 and one in nine are under 65, according to figures from the Office of National Statistics.

Low temperatures inside and outside of the home increase the risk of flu and other problems such as respiratory disease (the biggest killer for elderly people over winter) and can raise blood pressure. Blood pressure takes longer to return to normal in older people after being out in the cold and this puts us at greater risk of heart attacks and strokes.

The figures demonstrate just how vital it is that we all keep warm this winter. Here are some helpful tips to heating your home and staying cosy over the coming months – some of them could even save you money on your energy bills.

  • Keep your main living room around 70°F (21°C), and the rest of your home heated to at least 64°F (18°C).
  • It is important to know how to use your timer on your thermostat for your heating system so you can ensure your home is automatically heated for you at the coldest times of the day (usually dawn and dusk).
  • Move your sofa if it is currently sitting in front of your radiator, otherwise most of the heat is going straight into the furniture rather than heating your room. You will likely notice a huge difference to the warmth of your living room straight away.
  • If you have a spare room that rarely gets used, turn off the radiator and close the door. It is one less room in the house to heat and could save you a significant amount in energy costs.
  • Close the curtains when it gets dark, they are a great way to keep the heat in the room; so much warmth is lost through windows. You could buy thermal curtains to better keep the heat in, or line your existing curtains with thermal lining. You can pick thermal lining up for a great price at local markets, online, or at any curtain / material shop.
  • If you have an unused open fire, a huge amount of heat (and money) could be going up it. Buy a chimney balloon (up to £30) which cleverly seals the inside of your chimney and keeps warm air in your home where it belongs.
  • After you have used your oven for cooking, leave the door open a little so the heat empties into your home. Although do avoid if you have young children around.
  • If you are having difficulty paying your heating bills, consider applying for grants to help with your energy costs. You may even qualify for a brand new boiler if your current one is old and not energy efficient.
  • Make sure you keep your hands and face warm when you go out. As well as wearing gloves and a hat, always wrap a scarf around your face when you go out in cold weather to warm the air you breathe.
  • Several thin layers of clothing will keep you warmer than one thick layer, as the layers trap warm air between them. Start with thermal underwear, warm tights or socks.
  • If you are sitting down, a shawl or blanket will provide a lot of warmth. Try to keep your feet raised too when you are sitting, as the air is cooler towards the ground.
  • Use a hot-water bottle, wheat bag or an electric blanket to pre-heat the bed, but do not use a hot-water bottle and an electric blanket together as this can be dangerous.

Worried about the costs of heating your home? If you are struggling to get by on your current retirement income, you may wish to consider unlocking some of the cash from your home to help with regular bills and day-to-day living costs. During your free appointment, your local Bower adviser will go through all of your financial options and carry out a state benefits check to ensure you are receiving all the financial support you are entitled to.