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Could the colder months be more dangerous for older Australians?

Many Australians are aware of dangers related to extreme heat, but understanding the risks of being too cold is equally important.

<p>Keeping warm during the cooler months won’t just make you feel more comfortable, but it could reduce your risk of poor health. [Source: Shutterstock]</p>

Keeping warm during the cooler months won’t just make you feel more comfortable, but it could reduce your risk of poor health. [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points

  • The second most common extreme weather-related cause of death is exposure to cold conditions, according to data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
  • Researchers from the University of Adelaide suggested that older Australians feel most comfortable between temperatures of 15 – 28 degrees, although this may vary depending on personal preferences
  • Adapting habits during cooler months can help you keep warm and also save money on your electricity bill

Statisticians attributed extreme heat to 7,104 injury hospitalisations and 293 deaths in Australia over the 10 years from July 2012 to June 2022. 

However, it’s not just extremely high temperatures that put older Australians at risk. Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare suggested that ‘exposure to cold conditions is often the second most common extreme weather-related cause of death in a given year.’

Additionally, in the Australian population, people older than 65 years and those who live in major cities have a ‘significantly increased risk of death due to excessive cold,’ according to researchers of one Australian study.

As the cooler weather arrives, being mindful of cooler temperatures is important because older people are more likely to have slower metabolic rates and circulation. Keeping busy and active during the cooler months can help ensure that you are looking after your health.

Researchers from the University of Adelaide found that the ideal temperature range for older Australians is between 15 – 28 degrees. Keeping blankets nearby can help warm you up without needing to turn up the heater, by trapping your body warmth.

However, making small changes during cold weather can also keep you warmer without needing to increase your electricity usage. Eating warm foods such as soups or stews and having warm drinks like tea can make it easier to stay warm. Keeping the curtains open during the day can let the sun through the windows and closing them when the sun sets can help keep the day’s heat inside. 

Some other tips to look after yourself in the cold weather include:

  • maintaining good hygiene and avoiding germs;
  • keeping up to date with immunisations;
  • managing health conditions;
  • eating healthy foods and staying active;
  • staying warm.

For more detailed information about looking after yourself in the cooler seasons, have a look at this article about protecting yourself from winter sicknesses.

However, it’s not just dangers associated with cool weather that older Australians should know. The number of hospital admissions for injuries associated with extreme weather — such as heatwaves, bushfires and storms — has increased over the past decade

Older Australians are also at greater risk during heatwaves, as identified by researchers associated with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. Extreme heat can also be dangerous for people with disability with more information available in this article: Extreme heat affects everyone, but it does discriminate

With energy prices costing an arm and a leg, knowing more about your energy use at home could help reduce your bills. You can borrow a Home Energy Toolkit from your local library to help you better understand how much electricity different appliances in your home are using. The toolkit includes an appliance meter, infrared and spirit thermometers, a stopwatch, compass and audit guide and worksheets. 

Numerous factors can affect the amount of energy used in households, including:

  • the number of appliances and their efficiency;
  • local climate;
  • size and layout of your home;
  • personal preferences e.g. room heating.

Knowing more about how you use electricity is beneficial at any time of the year. 

 

What actions will you take to protect yourself and others against the colder weather?

Let the team at Talking Aged Care know on social media. 

For more information and news in the aged care industry, subscribe to our free newsletter. 

Relevant content:

How does a resident’s life shape their attitudes to aged care?

Could your neighbourhood increase the risk of dementia?

Expert attacked for encouraging vulnerable Aussies to get vaccinated

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