Charity Director, Age UK
Winter can be a challenging time for older people and can have a big impact on our physical and mental health. However, there are some things you can do to help stay well this winter.
As we age, our immune systems become weaker, and we gradually lose muscle mass. This makes it more difficult for our bodies to adjust to colder temperatures. This is especially true for older people and those with long-term health conditions.
Cold weather and health
Symptoms of health conditions such as asthma, diabetes and arthritis can be worsened by the cold weather; and chilly temperatures can impact the heart and circulatory system, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Winter is also when respiratory viruses like flu and Covid-19 increase in numbers, and older people are more vulnerable. As well as affecting physical health, cold weather can bring more social isolation, with darker, shorter days making mental health management more of a challenge than at other times of the year.
Looking after our health
Protect yourself, and prepare for winter:
- Everyone aged 50+ is eligible for a Covid-19 booster and a flu vaccine, so make sure you get yours. Check which other vaccines you may be entitled to, such as shingles or pneumonia.
- Make sure you keep moving, to maintain mobility — even small but regular movements can help. Moving is a good way to stay warm, too.
- Eating well is important, and hot food and drinks help to ward off the cold.
- Wash hands regularly with soap and water. Keep antibacterial gel with you.
- Wear plenty of layers when it’s cold, particularly when out and about.
- If you are feeling down or depressed, don’t feel you have to go through it alone. Reach out to friends or family, or contact your GP.
- Keep doing the things you enjoy to improve morale.
- Contact your local pharmacist, NHS 111 or your GP for advice and support with any health concerns. In an emergency, dial 999.
Everyone aged 50+ is eligible for a Covid-19 booster and a flu vaccine, so make sure you get yours.
Small things make a big difference at home
Make sure your heating is set at a comfortable level — high enough for you to stay warm at home, especially in the rooms you use the most. If you are worried about unaffordable energy bills, Age UK can offer advice. You can prepare your home for winter by getting your gas/central heating checked by a Gas Safe registered engineer, to ensure it’s working safely.