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Seniors health and staying warm this winter

Written by Mark Acheson, Communications Partner with integratedliving

Keeping yourself safe from cold temperatures becomes increasingly important as you age. In fact, in seniors health, it can make a life-saving difference.

Warming yourself and your home will not only keep you comfortable, it also lessens the likelihood of contracting pneumonia and influenza during the colder months. According to the World Health Organisation, there’s an increased risk of respiratory infection in temperatures below 16°C, and temperatures below 12°C can lead to increased blood pressure in elderly people.

With fuel poverty and poorly insulated homes being two of the main contributing factors towards cooler in-home temperatures, we take a look at several practical and cost-effective ways of keeping yourself and your home warm.     

Insulating your home

Insulating your home should be the first point of call in staying warm. Installing proper insulation during the building phase of a home is the ideal scenario, but many people are living in older dwellings built before they’ve taken occupation. 

There are several ways you can insulate your home as it stands:

  1. Ensure you seal off draughts under doors or in windows. Using towels can be a quick but temporary measure of ensuring hot air doesn’t escape, just be sure not to trip or fall on these when mobilising.
  2. Drawing blinds over windows is a good insulation method. Don’t forget to only heat the rooms you’re using.  

Dressing warmly

Wearing several layers of thin, loose-fitting clothing as opposed to one thicker item is recommended, as air is trapped between the layers acting as an insulator. 

Cotton, wool, or fleece materials are best to maintain body heat. While it may be a bit more expensive to purchase, wool is best. It moves moisture away from your skin faster and it is good at trapping warm, dry air next to you. 

Layer up to stay warm and keep the cold away.

If you’re leaving the home, use a scarf to cover your mouth to protect your lungs from the cold air. Couple this with a beanie and gloves for head-to-toe insulation.

If you find yourself cold of a night, thermals with woollen socks are your best friends. Couple this with a hot water bottle and/or an electric blanket for the ultimate sleep on those colder nights. Be sure to test electric blankets every three years and switch them off before going to sleep.  

Heating via appliances

If you have insulated your home but still finding it cold, you can use appliances to lift the temperature. There are two main types of heaters to consider – convection heaters and radiant heaters.

Radiant heaters warm your body and they come in the form of electric, gas and floor heaters. Convection heaters warm the air or room and there are five types of convection heaters: oil, ceramic, water, fan heaters, and furnaces.  

For larger rooms, it’s recommended you use a combination of both radiant and convective heaters, while in smaller rooms convective heating is most effective. Never face heaters towards a draft, nor sit in front of a draft. Instead, place your heater and furniture in a position that deflects and avoids drafts. 

Electric portable heaters can be cheap to buy but are expensive to run. If you are to choose a portable, electric heater, look to radiant heaters for bathrooms, fan heaters for small rooms, and a combination of convection and radiant heaters for large rooms. The initial purchase and installation of a fixed electric heater like reverse cycle air conditioners (heat pumps) may be costly at first, but they are the most cost-effective means of heating a home.

Using any electrical appliance during off-peak times is a great way to reduce costs. Note that cabinet heaters are now banned in Australia and shouldn’t be used. 

If you have a wood heater, it’s important to limit your exposure to smoke. Exposure to wood-burning smoke can cause asthma attacks and bronchitis, and also can aggravate heart and lung disease. Ensure that any wood you’re burning isn’t wet, and that you have adequate ventilation within your wood heater for smoke to safely escape.   

Learn more about living, feeling and being well

Learn more about managing in different seasons and looking after seniors health in other ways