Preparing for Winter in Australia – Tips to keep elders safe

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Cheerful elderly people walking with hot chocolate in paper cups and smiling while enjoying winter day outdoors
Cheerful elderly people walking with hot chocolate in paper cups and smiling while enjoying winter day outdoors

As we get older, our bodies react differently to cold weather which can make us more likely to develop illnesses or other health problems. But by following a few simple steps and planning ahead you can stay warm and safe this winter.

How do I stay healthy during winter?

1. Keep active

Staying active during winter is paramount to keeping your health but will also help keep you warm. If it’s not too cold, you could take a short walk in the middle of the day. If you’re staying in for the day, look for other ways you can keep active be it armchair exercises or daily chores.

2. Flu Jab

Flu is a serious risk to older people during winter and it’s constantly changing so it’s important to get a flu jab every year.

You can get a free flu jab from your GP if:

– you’re over 65
– have certain medical conditions
– receive a carer’s allowance, or you are the main carer for an older or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill.

3. Keep warm

Some ways to stay warm during winter include:

– wearing layers of clothing, rather than one chunky layer
– Use a hot water bottle or electric blanket in bed – just don’t use both at the same time
– try not to sit still for more than one hour if you’re indoors
– keep your bedroom window closed at night as this is the coldest time of the day
– close your curtains in the evenings to keep the heat in.

The NHS recommends keeping your home heated to at least 18C throughout the day, this can be set with a timer and thermostat on your heating system. If you’ve not had your heating system serviced for over a year you should get it checked by a professional so that it works efficiently throughout winter. Some energy suppliers have a Priority Services Register which gives older people extra support and helps during winter so be sure to ask.

4. Keep your medication in order

Ordering your prescriptions ahead of time will ensure you don’t run out of any medication over winter. If you’re unable to collect your prescription due to mobility or weather issues, ask your pharmacy if they can deliver your medication to you.

It’s also a good idea to keep some cold and flu remedies at home just in case you start to feel unwell.

5. Keep your spirits up

Feeling down during winter isn’t unusual, especially as the days get shorter. Try to do something you enjoy every day, be it watching your favorite TV show, completing a crossword, or heading out for a coffee.

If you’re unable to go out, or your friends and family can’t visit, organize a regular phone call or Skype chat to stay in touch.

 

How do I stay safe during winter?

1. Stay up to date

Each day the Met Office provides weather forecasts on radio, TV, and in the paper, so listen in or check on these bulletins regularly to stay up to date with the weather in your area. Knowing what weather conditions are on the horizon can help you prepare for anything unexpected like ice, snow, high winds, flooding, storms, etc.

2. Take care when driving in winter

If your car comes with winter tires you should get them changed at your local garage to increase the level of grip when driving. It’s also a good idea to keep warm clothes, water, food, and tools in your car during winter in case you get into any trouble on the roads or break down.

When traveling medium to long distances it is wise to tell someone where you’re going and what time you expect to arrive, if anything changes having a fully charged mobile will ensure you can get in touch with someone so they don’t start to worry.

3. Be careful of icy or wet surfaces

Walking can be just as risky as driving during winter, but with a few precautions, you can stay safe and confident when out and about.

Why not:

– invest in some winter shoes, boots, and slippers with non-slip soles
– consider installing a handrail if you have steps or a slope at your front or back door
– ask your family to grit the paths and steps around your house for added grip.

4. Get Heating Systems Fixed

You can’t beat Australian winters without a proper heating system.

Get your heating system fixed/maintained by professional contractors like Surrey Air. Surrey Air offers service, repair, installation, and Maintainance of all kinds of heating systems. We specialize in hydronic heating service.

5. Plan for an emergency in winter

An emergency could be anything from a fall to your heating system failing. Having a plan in case anything should happen to you through winter is vitally important.

– keep a list of emergency numbers, such as family and utility companies, on your phone
– keep a torch handy in case you lose power
– don’t block air vents or hang washing close to a fire/electric heater
– test your smoke alarms
– keep your mobile phone charged
– tell your neighbors if you’re on your own and worried about the cold weather.

Get your ducted heating service from Surrey Air.

How can I keep my older relatives/neighbors safe in winter?

As children, friends, and neighbors we are able to help older people keep warm and safe during winter. Regularly checking in to make sure they’re safe and well, have enough food, and are warm will give reassurance not only to you but to older people too.

If you are worried about a relative or older person contact the NHS, your local GP, or the local council.

Winter Activities

This will be the winter for outdoor sports and activities! Even with gyms, pools, and fitness classes open in many regions of the country, outside activity will be more popular than ever since public health authorities continue to indicate that the risk of virus transmission is lower outdoors. This is the year to embrace and enjoy all four seasons outdoors.

Being active outside during the winter months requires some advance planning and preparation to have fun and prevent injury. If you are new to outdoor activities, think about what you like to do! Have you ever tried a winter sport?

Running, walking and hiking are year-round activities and excellent choices during the fall season to gain and maintain good muscle strength and balance heading into the winter.

Running Shoes

Once winter arrives, some people continue to run in their usual running shoes while others switch to winter running shoes. Small cleats pulled onto the soles of the shoes on icy days can help prevent falls.

These small cleats are not suitable on snow-cleared bare pavement, so these game-day decisions are dependent on the weather and paths available.

For the walkers, walking poles add stability and balance.  Rubber tips or booties can simply be taken off for icy days, or an actual sharper ice tip can be added. When trail-walking in deeper snow, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, use a pole with a basket.

Sports Equipment

Across the spectrum of all sports, equipment is always an important part of injury prevention. Equipment needs to be correct for the sport, be in good condition, and fit well. New and used winter sports equipment is already in high demand, as were bicycles this past spring.

If you are digging out some of your own equipment, check it carefully. Downhill ski bindings should be professionally checked and the skis should be waxed and sharpened. Helmets are recommended for many winter sports, should be well fitted, have a CSA sticker, and not be expired.

Helmets

Bicycle helmets are often used for skating outside; they should fit snugly over thin hats for warmth and exposed ears.

Preventing cold injuries such as hypothermia and frostbite requires using appropriate clothing and footwear.

Depending on the type and length of your activity, plan on wearing layers. Usually, it is better to start out slightly cold since you will warm up quickly. Some people bring extra clothing that they can switch during the activity, and also to have when finished i.e. a dry hat, socks, mittens, or a warmer coat for the trip home.

Hydration

Hydration is very important and often forgotten when exercising outside in the winter.

We tend to associate thirst with being hot, and cold weather with a hot drink after the activity. Remembering to bring a water bottle is often forgotten when heading out skating or tobogganing.

But dehydration is very real with prolonged activity and can make you wobbly and more likely to fall. Reaching for water is difficult in mittens so bring a bottle that is easy to handle. Make sure it does not leak onto the extra clothing that you may have brought.

Lastly, plan your outing based on your fitness, skill level, and outdoor temperature! Tobogganing should be well away from trees. Start the activity at an easy to moderate pace for at least 10 – 20 minutes to get your limbs moving, blood flowing, and body awake.

Know your ski hill or your route for its challenges and length, such that you can finish your route safely within your comfort zone.

Prepare for winters with the best heating systems.

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