How to stay well this winter: 9 ways older people can take care during the cold weather season

As temperatures drop, here’s some advice on staying safe.

As temperatures plummet yet again, it can also be a difficult time for some.

[Read more: 7 tips on not falling over in the snow and ice]

Figures released last year found that there were about 24,300 excess winter deaths in England and Wales in 2015/16, with almost one third among those aged 75 and over.

Here are some of the ways Independent Age recommends that older people - by themselves or with the help of their relatives and carers - can stay safe, warm and healthy as the weather turns colder.

1. Stay active

Try and get outside if conditions aren’t too icy or cold, says a spokesperson at Independent Age. “It can boost your mood to get outdoors while it’s still daylight. If you’re indoors, don’t sit still for more than an hour. Moving around your home can help to keep you warm.”

2. Be careful in icy weather

If you have to go out when the ground is icy, opt for shoes with a decent grip and warm lining, and some thick socks. It’s a good idea to keep some grit or salt to put on your path – some councils provide free bags of this, or you can purchase it in a DIY store.

3. Keep your cupboards and freezer well stocked

It’s always handy to have some basic food stuffs on hand for when it’s too cold to brave going out. Long-life milk and fruit juice, pasta, rice and tins of soup or baked beans are useful options, plus some frozen veg, meat, fish and bread in your freezer.

4. Flu and pneumo jabs

Have a flu jab every year. “It’s free if you’re 65 or over, a carer or have certain health conditions. Flu can increase your risk of more serious illnesses such as pneumonia. Make an appointment with your GP or see if your local pharmacy offers the flu jab.”

The pneumo (or pneumococcal) jab is a one-off jab that protects against pneumonia, meningitis and septicaemia. You’re eligible for one if you’re 65 or over.

[Read more: The flu jab: Should you have it?]

5. Keep a well-stocked medicine cupboard

“Keep a range of everyday medicines at home in case you get ill, such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, cough medicine, lozenges and sore throat sprays,” says the spokesperson. “Ask your pharmacist for advice if you’re unwell. Some pharmacies operate a minor ailment scheme, which may enable you to get medicine for some minor illnesses.” If you don’t normally pay for prescriptions, these are free of charge.

6. Drink more milk

Drinking more milk and having more dairy products in winter can boost your immune system and assist in the prevention of colds, the NHS recommends. Dairy products contain protein and vitamins A and B12 as well as calcium to keep your bones strong.

7. Top up vitamin D

Not getting enough vitamin D on dark, cold winter days can leave you feeling tired. Aside from sunlight, other sources of vitamin D include oily fish (think salmon, mackerel and sardines), eggs, red meat, margarine, and some cereals and dairy products.

The Government recommends that all adults consider a daily vitamin D supplement from October to March, while people at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency might be advised to take a supplement all year round.

[Read more: 7 ways to boost your vitamin D intake]

8. Check your thermostat

“Being cold isn’t just uncomfortable – it can also be very bad for your health. Low temperatures increase the risk of flu as well as a heart attack, stroke or hypothermia. Your living room should be around 70F (21C) and your other rooms should be at least 64F (18C),” Independent Age recommends.

9. Use simple tips to keep your home warm

Pull your curtains shut before it gets dark to keep the heat in, and consider investing in thermal or heavier ones to keep your room even cosier. Keep radiators clear so heat can circulate and put draft excluders by your doors and windows.

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