Private Business Intermediaries

Spread The Warmth - being neighbourly this winter

21/11/2012 | By Sharmila Chauhan
As the cold sets in: being neighbourly is even more important than ever. As many as 25,000 older people die needlessly each year because of the cold according to a recent report by Age UK.  The charity which surveyed over 1,000 adults aged over 65 found that a staggering 3.5 million people are not getting any help or support from their neighbours. Over a third of people said they are dreading the cold weather in winter.

The drop in temperature means that many elderly people stay indoors increasing their sense of isolation and chances of illness.

Why is the cold such an issue for older people?

Older people respond differently to the cold and have a higher chance of having a heart attack, stroke, or pneumonia than younger people. As well as this, staying indoors for large lengths of time without company is sadly part of normal life for many elderly people. Over 500,000 older people spend Christmas Day alone. Feeling lonely and depressed can have a negative impact on people’s mental and physical wellbeing.

Top tips!

Age UK has developed four tips to protect people’s health and keep warm in winter:
  • It’s harder to judge temperatures as people get older. Use a thermometer to detect changes and act quickly. Keep the living room at 70°F (21°c)
  • Exposure to the cold during the night increases the risk of a heart attack or a stroke. Keep the bedroom at 65°F (18°c).
  • It’s a common misconception that sleeping with the window open all year round is healthy. Keeping windows open on a winter night increases the risk of a heart attack or a stroke. Keep the bedroom windows closed at night.
  • Protect fingers, mouth and head – these parts of your body are more sensitive to changes in temperature. Breathing in cold air can increase the  chances of becoming seriously ill. Wrap up well when you go outside.

So what can you do to look out for your neighbour?

  • Introduce yourself: Knock on your neighbour’s door and let them know who you are. If you see your neighbor on the street, stop and say hello.
  • Offer help for everyday tasks. Next time you are running your own errands e.g. shopping, post office or DIY shop – check in with your neighbor to see if they need anything. Picking something up for them won’t take much time and will also help them to feel less isolated.
  • If you are good at DIY or cooking, you may be able to help your neighbor with simple things like changing a light bulb, or making some soup once a week for dinner. These tasks do not have to take long, but will mean a lot.
  • Help with paperwork. Some elderly people may find it difficult to fill in forms or know what forms they need to fill out when. Simply sitting down with someone and helping them with their paperwork can take a weight off their mind.
  • Pop over for a cuppa. Take note of your neighbour’s activities. If you notice that they are often alone at a certain time each week or if they don’t have family close by, - popping over for a cuppa and a chat can make world of difference. providing much needed company and opportunity to get to know each other better. If you have children of your own, they may provide a distraction and talking point.
  • Keep a look out. Keep an eye on your neighbour’s house. Do the lights come on at night? Do the curtains get drawn? Is the garden tended? If it looks like there isn’t any activity, pop over and just make sure they are ok. If you can’t get through  you may need to try a few times. If you are seriously worried then you can call the community police or their GP. Make sure you have your neighbours phone number so you can contact them even if they can’t get to the door. 

Remember being neighbourly is a two way street. Although you are helping someone, people who work with the elderly say its really rewarding. Spending time with someone from the older generation can be a really enriching experience.