Winter health advice for over 55s
Now winter is well and truly here, we need to think about how we can stay as healthy as possible throughout the season.
In winter in the UK we have an average minimum temperature of 0.9 C (33.6 F) and maximum temperature of 6.56 C (43.8F) and experience an average of 11.2 days of air frost each month. Find out more about temperature averages here.
Looking out for colds and flu
Coughs, colds and flu are especially common during winter. It’s important we all take steps to look after our health, but this is particularly important as you get older. As we age, changes to our bodies mean that cold weather and winter bugs can affect us more than they used to.
Our immune system, which helps us fight off germs and infections, doesn’t function as well as we age. So it’s a good idea to take extra steps to avoid getting ill – even if we might feel fighting fit.
This includes making sure you’ve had the flu jab. Everyone over 65 is entitled to a free flu jab from the doctor or pharmacist, as well as if you’re a carer or if you have certain long term health conditions. Even if you’re fit and healthy, it’s a great idea to get the jab to help protect yourself and others.
There’s a vaccine for pneumonia too. Ask about the jab and see if you’re eligible when you get your flu jab.
It’s also a good idea to stock up on cold and sore throat remedies as winter draws in. Talk to your Pharmacist about what could help if you’re feeling under the weather and keep some at home so that you don’t have to go out when you’re ill.
As we get older, our body has to work harder to keep us warm.
From about the age of 55+, we lose around 1% of our muscle mass every year. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but our muscle keeps us warm.
So it’s really important to wrap up warm when you go outside. In the home, eating at least one hot meal every day and drinking regular hot drinks helps, as does getting up and moving every now and again.
Ideally you should heat your home to a temperature of at least 18 °C. If you’re having trouble heating your home in the winter months, Age UK might be able to help with their manage your money in winter web page.
Managing your medication during winter
As we age we tend to be on more medications than when we’re younger. This can be tricky to manage at any time of year but particularly during winter. One proactive step you can take if you are starting on a new medicine to treat a long-term condition is to access a free scheme called the New Medicine Service from your local pharmacist.
This a free service for those in England which involves a face-to-face conversation with your local pharmacist about the medicines you are taking. This gives you the opportunity to understand why you’re taking your medications and help you manage them in the best way to treat or control any conditions you’re living with. Find out more about the New Medicine Service.
If you’re taking multiple medications, it can be tricky to remember to take them all. Here are a few tips from LloydsPharmacy:
- Create a timetable that states what times you need to take your medication and place it somewhere visible like on your fridge.
- Try a pillbox. These can help ensure you’re taking the right dosages and are handy to take out an about. There are some pill boxes that can work in conjunction with an app to help remind you of your dosages and when to take them.
- Try to make taking your medication part of your routine. For example, you could take it when you do something at the same time every day. This could be when having breakfast or watching the evening news.
- You could try setting up alarms on your phone to remind you of times and dosage.
Top tip: Make sure you have enough of your medication over winter, that way if there’s a cold snap and it becomes difficult to get out and about you don’t have to worry about your medication.
Getting out and about
No one wants to have to stay indoors all winter long, but when the weather makes a turn for the worse it can be tricky to get out and about. When the weather is really bad, it’s best to stay indoors, why not make the time to call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while, or take up a new hobby or learn a new skill.
When the weather is a bit milder, try to take that time to get some fresh air and run any errands you have. Make sure to wrap up warm when going outside; you could try wearing multiple thinner layers so you can take a layer off if you get too warm.
If you’re starting to have trouble moving about with ease, there are many mobility aids available that can help you get out and about. From walking sticks, to rollators, wheel chairs or mobility scooters you can find the one that suits your need.
With bad weather and darker nights, it’s not unusual to feel a bit blue in the winter months. Age UK spoke to people aged 65 to 95 about what they do to keep their spirits up in the winter - there are lots of ideas and advice on their ‘Keep your spirits up’ page.