How to keep the elderly warm in winter

Severe cold snaps can have dramatic effects on everyday life, especially for the elderly. Cold and wintry conditions can cause severe illness and, in the worst cases, people can die. By taking some simple precautions, most people can be prepared for the cold weather

  • Get a free seasonal flu jab. Not only is seasonal flu unpleasant, but it can also cause serious illnesses, such as pneumonia or bronchitis and in the worst cases, it can result in a stay in hospital, or even death. The elderly and those with long-term health problems are most at risk. Your ageing parent can get a free jab from the age of 65. They should contact their GP, or talk to their pharmacist
  • Try to avoid catching colds or flu. Colds and flu spread very easily. Encourage your ageing parent to always cover their nose and mouth with a tissue when you coughing or sneezing and encourage visitors and relatives to do the same. They should throw away used tissues as soon as possible and wash their hands regularly with soap and water, taking  a hand sanitiser gel when they are out and about
  • Stock up on over-the-counter cough and cold remedies, so they have them to hand if they suddenly feel ill

Living a healthy lifestyle

Keeping your ageing parent  fit and healthy is important all year round, but lifestyle can make even more of a difference when it comes to keeping well in winter

Eating regular meals will help keep their energy levels up during winter and so help to fight infection

Encourage your elderly relative to:

  • Have plenty of hot food and drinks
  • Plan their meals and keep their diet as varied as possible
  • Aim to include daily five portions of fruit and veg
  • Remember that tinned and frozen fruit and vegetables count towards the five a day
  • Stock up on tinned and frozen foods, so that they don’t have to go out too much when it’s cold or icy

Stay active 

Even moderate exercise can bring health benefits. If possible, encourage your parent to move around at least once an hour, but remember to speak to their GP before they start on any exercise plan

Dress for the weather

Wearing lots of thin layers – clothes made from cotton, wool or fleecy fibres are particularly good and help to maintain body heat. Wearing shoes with a good grip will help to prevent slips and falls when walking outside

Heating your parent’s home effectively and safely

Some of these energy-saving tips may seem obvious, but they can make a big difference when it comes to reducing fuel bills

By setting the heating to the right temperature, your parent can keep their home warm and lower their bills.The main living room should be around 21°C (70°F), the bedroom should be 18°C (65°F) and the rest of the house at least 16°C (61°F). Set the heating to come on just before they get up and switch off after they’ve gone to bed. If it’s very cold, set the heating to come on earlier and turn off later rather than turning the thermostat up. If they can’t heat all the rooms , heat the living room throughout the day and the bedroom just before you go to bed. Remember to close curtains and shut doors to keep heat in the rooms they use most

Get the  heating system checked regularly

Keep the home well ventilated.If your parent has open fires, make sure they are properly ventilated. Use safety guards and don’t hang washing near  open flames. If your parent uses a fire or heater in their bedroom at night, they should always keep a window and the door open

Use electric blankets as instructed and get it tested every three years. Remember, your parent never to use an electric blanket and a hot water bottle together

Switch appliances (such as TVs and microwaves) off, rather than leaving them on standby

Do not use a gas cooker or oven to heat the home – it is inefficient and there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning

Keeping the heat in

Insulating your parent’s home not only helps to keep them warm and healthy, but it will also help to keep heating costs down

  • Fit draught proofing to seal any gaps around windows and doors
  • Make sure that the loft has at least 10–11 inches(270mm) of insulation
  • Insulate wall cavities and hot water cylinder and pipes
  • Draw  curtains at dusk to help keep the heat generated inside the rooms
  • Make sure that radiators are not obstructed by curtains or furniture

Financial help to heat your older parent’s home


Winter Fuel Payment

This is a tax-free benefit to help pay for heating during winter. Your parent could be eligible. For winter 2012/13 people born on or before 5 July, 1951 will have reached the qualifying age. This year your parent could get a Winter Fuel Payment of up to £200 for households with someone who qualifies aged up to 79, or up to £300 for someone aged 80 or over. The exact amount depends on circumstances during the qualifying week of 17–23 September 2012, such as age, whether your parent lives alone and whether they get Pension Credit.They will get the payment automatically if they qualify and if they got a Winter Fuel Payment last winter and still meet the conditions for getting it, or they get State Pension. Most payments are made over a number of weeks from November onwards and  payment should be made by Christmas.

The Warm Front scheme

  • The Warm Front scheme provides government-funded grants towards insulation and heating improvements to make your parent’s home warmer, healthier and more energy efficient
  • Grants are available for people in England who own their home, or rent it from a private landlord, are on certain income related benefits, and are living in properties that are poorly insulated and/or do not have a working central heating system
  • Visit

Energy Company Obligation

Participating energy companies will help pay for all, or part of the cost of installing the following types of measures to make homes warmer, healthier and more energy efficient:

  • Solid wall insulation
  • Loft insulation
  • Cavity wall insulation
  • A boiler

If your parent lives in a property suitable for solid wall, or certain types of cavity wall insulation, support may be available

For homeowners, or people living in private rental accommodation in receipt of certain benefits and tax-credits, there will also be free, or heavily subsidised support for boiler repairs, or replacement and a range of insulation measures

Contact the independent Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234

Cold Weather Payment

Cold Weather Payments are made during periods of very cold weather to help people pay for extra heatingcosts

To get a Cold Weather Payment, the average temperature where your parent lives must be recorded as, or forecast to be, 0°C or below for seven days in a row

Your parent may be able to get Cold Weather Payments if they are getting Pension Credit, Income Support and have a pensioner or disability premium

A Cold Weather Payment is £25 for each period of very cold weather

Warm Home Discount Scheme

The Warm Home Discount scheme is a four-year scheme that began in April 2011 to help low-income and vulnerable households with energy costs

Participating energy companies will be providing a discount of £130 on the electricity bills of certain customers in winter 2012/13.

Your parent may qualify for this £130 energy discount if on21 July 2012 (the qualifying date) they were either aged under 80 and receiving only the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit (no Savings Credit), or aged 80 or over and were receiving the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit (even if they get Savings Credit as well


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