Christmas has been and gone, the decorations are packed away for another year and the New Year's Eve parties are fading into memory.....
Yes it's January, the month we count the cost of the festivities and make resolutions (which we probably won't keep!).
January, February and even March are also usually the coldest months in the UK- remember the 'Beast from the East'? In this article we are going to address the winter pressures which affect us all, but particularly the more elderly in our communities, at this time of year.
Heat or Eat?
Sadly, even with the winter fuel allowance, this is a conundrum many older people face.
Some may be living in properties with inadequate central heating systems (or none at all) with poorly fitted single glazed windows and doors and they struggle to maintain a suitable temperature.
In these instances, it may be worth checking in with the local council or organisations like Friends of the Elderly as there may be grants available to improve the property and/or help with bills.
If you, or someone you know, are struggling to heat your entire house, concentrate on keeping one room cosy and warm during cold spells. The recommended minimum temperature is 18° Celsius. Try to keep the room you spend most of your time in at at least that level. If you're largely inactive then a higher temperature would be more comfortable.
Keep doors shut and use draft excluders to minimise the chill. It may even be worth while keeping the curtains shut in the room you are trying to keep warm.
Hot water bottles are comforting and cheap but be careful not to scald yourself!
If your kitchen is chilly, fill a flask with hot tea (or coffee) in the morning when you make your breakfast, so you needn't go back in there until lunchtime.
Dress warmly in layers and have a duvet, blanket or even a sleeping bag that you can snuggle under if you need to. Take heed though! If you're using a source of heating which has a naked flame or perhaps an electric fire, be very careful, keep your blanket/duvet well away from the heat source.
Try to eat warming comfort foods, soups and stews for example, that can be quickly heated through - especially if you have a microwave. If you have a freezer, keep stocked up with nourishing prepared meals which can be heated through from frozen.
Have you had your flu shot? You could still get one via your GP or pharmacist if you haven't.
Whether you have had the shot or not, at the first sign of coughs or sniffles pay a visit to your local pharmacist. They are highly trained individuals and will be able to asses if your symptoms warrant a GP appoinment or, if over the counter medicines are all that's required.
If you need regular prescribed meds, are your prescriptions up to date and do you have a sufficient quantity to see you through a cold snap when it may be difficult to get out? Many GP's and pharmacists now work togehter and it may even be possible to have your medications delivered. It's always worth asking.
Although it may be very tempting to stay snuggled up under a blanket, do try to move around a little. We're not suggesting you put on a fitness DVD and do a workout, but even walking on the spot, swinging your arms etc will get the blood circulating around the body.
During these dark winter months, especially if the weather is bad and you are unable to get out, loneliness can become a real problem. Ring us on 0114 2505292 to be refered to our Good Neighbours Scheme. This friendly visiting service is free and provides a friend for those who are lonely.
If you are tech savvy and have a smartphone or access to a computer (with internet connection) you can connect to the outside world via social media. It's not all about Facebook and Instagram, there are online groups out there aimed directly at the older generations.
https://www.ageukmobility.co.uk - has some useful links to sites for over 50's .
If you have a specific hobby or interest, it's always worth looking online to see if there are any websites devoted to the subject matter, they will often have forums or chat rooms where you will be able to talk with like-minded people.
Remember, the internet is for ALL age groups, don't bracket it as just being something for 'the kids'.
If 'going online' is not possible or simply not something you are interested in, are there any groups locally that provide transport to social events? Try Sheffield Community Transport. Your GP surgery will often have a notice board with details of luncheon clubs, coffee morning etc in your area. Try Sheffield Council lunch club directory.
General Advice For Everyone
If you live near an elderly person, be they alone or not, check up on them regularly during the cold winter months.
A friendly face and a chat over a cuppa and a slice (or two!) of cake can work wonders in brightening someone's day. It also offers the opportunity to find out if the person is well, has sufficient supplies of food etc and is keeping warm.
Offer to do the weekly shop; maybe help with a spot of batch cooking; take them to social events etc.
In short - be a good neighbour.
Remember, winter doesn't last forever (although it sometimes feels like it!) the days are already beginning to get a little longer and before we know it spring will be making an appearance.
We can all make a choice - simply endure the season, OR, embrace and enjoy it for what it is......a time to mimic the animal kingdom and (metaphorically anyway) hibernate until the warmer weather arrives.
Sometimes changing the way we view something can change the way we feel about it.
Keep warm. Keep well fed and hydrated.
And remember - there is help available if you need it.