* 7 June 2023 *
After a third ‘la niña’ summer with its lower temperatures and higher rainfall, followed by a cold autumn, winter is now with us: how do we keep ourselves warm and healthy, both mentally and physically during the colder darker months?
There are a number of physiological changes that occur as we age which, often combined with medications, can reduce our ability to keep warm: many older people experience a decrease in fat and thinning skin which make it difficult to conserve heat; there is a natural decrease in metabolic rate which can affect our ability to generate enough heat to feel warm; and our circulation slows, making it difficult to retain heat throughout the body.
The government’s Better Health website says, “If you are aged 65 years or over, or if you have low mobility or a health condition, heat your home to at least 18°C.”
Let Sun In/Keep Cold Out
On sunny days, let the sunlight into your home to take advantage of the radiant heat: open your blinds or curtains to maximise this effect.
As soon as the sun goes down, keep the warmth in by closing your blinds and/or curtains.
Draft Excluders/Door Snakes
Reducing drafts is an effective way to maintain room temperature and reduce your fuel bill. They don’t have to be fancy to be effective and don’t cost much.
To ensure they are not a trip hazard, it is advisable to attach them to the door so they move with it.
Layer Clothing, Wear Warm Footwear
More layers of clothing create better ‘insulation’ around you and keep you warmer than fewer thicker layers. Singlets, skivvies and long johns are very effective, especially for those who are less mobile. Warm long socks and well-fitting slippers are a must, as hot air rises and cold air drops, so the coolest part of your room is where your feet are. Putting your feet up on a foot rest will take them out of the coldest area.
Sitting without moving for a long time can result in a drop in body temperature. If you find yourself becoming cold, stand up, get yourself a hot drink, walk around for a while and get your circulation moving. A brisk walk outdoors is a good way to raise your metabolism and warm you up.
Avoid Mould Growth
Black mould can lead to asthma attacks and allergies and is a source of stress. Prevention is easier than removal so it is important to ‘nip it in the bud’.
Black mould grows in damp conditions with inadequate air circulation- ie when the weather is wet or damp and there is no ventilation.
So if you choose to heat only part of your home, make sure those areas not heated are kept well ventilated.
If you see signs of black mould, act straight away to deal with it to avoid it spreading further.
Government Rebates & Bonuses
From 24 March 2023, a new round of the ‘Power Saving Bonus’ was made available to all Victorian households. (More information: https://compare.energy.vic.gov.au/) There is also a one-off $250 direct power saving bonus which will be credited directly to power accounts after 1 July. Both of these are to offset power costs and to alleviate worries about keeping your heating on.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can affect any of us during the darker winter months as the amount of sunlight decreases.
If you find yourself feeling down, constantly tired or lacking energy and not enjoying the activities you usually enjoy, you could be experiencing SAD.
There are some simple precautions you can take to try to prevent SAD, including getting outdoors when the sun is shining, and getting sun into your home – if your windows face the right way.
Treatments include light therapy, psychotherapy, anti-depressant medication and Vitamin D supplements.
If you think you may be affected by SAD, see your GP to get a diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Look after yourself and each other this winter.