Over the last year, we’ve all experienced the effects of lockdown, including separation from our friends and family and often a sense of helplessness. 

As winter approaches, it should be remembered that this season with its cold, damp weather, long nights and limited daily sunlight can create a different form of lockdown for elderly people across the country every year.  

Here are just a few small things you can do to help your elderly friends, relatives, and neighbours in the coming months: 

1. Make sure their home is warm 

As we age, our bodies have difficulty maintaining body temperature and are more prone to winter illnesses. Ensuring someone’s home is a safe and comfortable place to live can range from simple tasks – providing extra hot water bottles and fluffy slippers – to ensuring there are no draughts, and that the heating is fit for purpose (there are a range of government grants and subsidies available precisely for this reason). 

2. Help with doctor visits and collecting prescriptions 

Depending on how tech-savvy the individual is, ordering and collecting repeat prescriptions can be challenging over winter. An extra helping hand (and a nice warm car) can be a lifesaver in ensuring someone’s ability to attend important medical appointments such as yearly flu vaccines and the essential Covid booster jabs. These vaccines are especially important to the elderly to keep them safe not only from flu and covid but from related complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis. 

3. Offering help with ‘simple’ chores 

What may seem a small task to you, for example taking out the rubbish or fetching the weekly shopping, can be an uphill battle for anyone with mobility issues over winter. Though dignity or pride may prevent individuals from asking for help, having someone offer to take care of these tasks can really improve someone’s quality of life and sense of wellbeing. 

4. Keep loneliness at bay 

Winter can be an especially isolating time for the elderly in our communities. Harsh weather and low temperatures often prevent people from venturing out, and a wish to ‘not be a bother’ can isolate elderly people further. A simple phone call can brighten someone’s day even if it’s just to say hello and to show you’re thinking of them. Even better, if you have the time is to pop in for a cup of tea and a chat. Letting someone know they’re not a burden and in fact cared for and welcome can make all the difference. 

5. Trying out a befriending service 

If you have a friend or neighbour who may be alone this winter, or who just seems like they may need to talk, why not sign them up to a befriending service? Charities such as Age UK run telephone befriending services matching elderly people up with likeminded folks for regular calls to chat about anything. We can always use another friend.