There are many joys to living in New England – summers by the sea, autumn foliage, watching the Patriots, Bruins and Red Sox, winter skiing, just to name a few. But for older adults in particular, it can be challenging to keep warm in the winter months. However, Mystic Valley Elder Services offers simple steps you can take to ensure you stay comfortable even in the chilliest temperatures.
Bundle up. If you need to go outdoors, ensure your extremities (head, hands, and feet) are covered. Also wear a scarf to protect your neck. Long underwear can also be a good investment. Wear shoes with good traction and non-slip soles to avoid falling on ice. When indoors, wear warm layers and slippers to keep your feet warm. With hypothermia and other health issues a serious concern for senior citizens, it is important to keep your body temperature at 95 degrees or warmer.
Manage your indoor heat settings. Keep your thermostat between 68 and 70 degrees as soon as the temperatures drop, and avoid indoor space heaters due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning or fires. To save on fuel costs, close doors to rooms you are not using. Keep blinds and curtains closed at all times and place a rolled-up towel in front of doors to the outside to prevent drafts
Look into fuel assistance programs if heating costs are a concern. There are many different fuel assistance programs. Each program has its own way of deciding who can receive assistance. According to www.mass.gov, some programs include:
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
The Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development runs the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIHEAP helps low-income people and families with the cost of heating their homes in the winter. You may seek help from a local fuel assistance office if you are having trouble paying your utility bills. To apply for LIHEAP fuel assistance, you must visit the fuel assistance agency in your area.
Salvation Army Good Neighbor Fund
The Salvation Army’s Good Neighbor Energy Fund offers one-time grants for eligible consumers. The Fund is available to any Massachusetts resident who cannot meet a month’s energy expense because of temporary financial difficulty and is not eligible for state or federal energy assistance. To be eligible, your income must fall between 60 and 80 percent of the state’s median income levels. To find out if you are eligible, contact the Salvation Army at (800) 334-3047.
Keep in mind, it is illegal in Massachusetts for your gas or electric company to turn off your services if you need them for heat between November 15 and March 15 and you cannot afford to pay your bills.
Eat well. Lower body fat equals a harder time keeping warm. Stay satiated throughout the winter with hearty soups and plenty of protein and healthy fats. If you feel you are losing weight, confer with your primary care physician right away.
Ask loved ones or friends to check on you. During the cold winter months, it can be especially helpful for older adults to have someone check on them. Not only can this provide great company, but it can also ensure you stay safe living at home. If faced with a power outage, pack a bag and stay with a family member or friend.
Old Man Winter will have nothing on you if you follow these helpful tips. With a bit of preparation and awareness, you will be welcoming spring before you know it.
Celebrating 45 Years of giving older adults their independence, Mystic Valley Elder Services is a non-profit agency located in Malden, Mass., that provides essential home- and community-based care and resources to older adults, adults living with disabilities, and caregivers who reside in Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Melrose, North Reading, Reading, Revere, Stoneham, Wakefield and Winthrop, regardless of their income level. Agency services include coordination of home care, transportation, Meals on Wheels, and information and referrals. For more information, please call (781) 324-7705 or visit www.mves.org.