Age NI has winter all wrapped up with help and advice on keeping warm and financial support through benefits

Warming to OAPs’ themes

By Gráinne Brinkley

THE unprecedented heavy snowfall and freezing conditions of last Christmas left thousands of people stranded in their homes or without the basic amenities that we usually take for granted.

With the memory of water queues and impassable roads still very fresh in all our minds, this year many of us have been taking extra precautions to keep our homes and ourselves safe from the effects of cold weather. But as we stock up on tinned goods, grit and home heating oil, it’s very easy to forget that even the most average of winter conditions can still prove to be a struggle for older people in our community, even more so if they have to cope with poverty, illness and isolation.

With this in mind, the older people’s charity Age NI is urging people to do their bit to help ease the affects of winter on the elderly by signing up to its ‘Spread the Warmth’ campaign, which is supported by Power NI and runs throughout the winter until February.

“The Spread The Warmth Campaign does literally what it says on the tin – it’s about spreading the warmth to older people and helping Age NI to improve the lives of older people through winter,” explains Age NI spokesperson, Roisín Kerr.

“A special ‘Winter Wrapped Up’ booklet has been produced as part of the campaign, 40,000 copies have just been distributed across the country with more scheduled to be printed in the coming weeks.  This is a 24-page guide for older people on keeping warm over winter and it’s full of tips on keeping warm, staying healthy and includes emergency contact numbers and details for organisations that can help with issues on colder weather. This is available to download online, or you call us and get a copy posted out to you and call into the office here and pick one up.”

The campaign is also highlighting Age NI’s freephone advice line which provides one-to-one assistance for anyone finding it hard to cope.

“This service was inundated with calls last winter from older people struggling to keep warm or get out of the house,” said Roisín.

“This time last year in the run-up to Christmas was a crisis point for a lot of people but particularly bad for the elderly and that was before we hit the issue of the water shortages and frozen pipes.  We’re still conscious that many older people are not aware of our advice line so the campaign is a way of getting it out there and letting them know that there’s someone on the other end of the phone that can offer you help and assistance.  For example, there is up to £2.3million in benefits for the elderly that’s going unclaimed every week in Northern Ireland in pension credit alone.  If you know an older person who is struggling financially, get them to give us a call on the freephone advice service and we can do a free benefits check for them as there may well be benefits they are missing out on that could be making winter a bit more palatable for them.”

You can also hold a Spread the Warmth coffee morning to raise funds to support Age NI in its work over the winter months.

“Just £5 will pay for 20 of our Winter Wrapped Up Guides, £10 will pay for a benefits check and £20 will pay for one Dementia Day Care session,” she said.

However, Roisín stressed that the most important part of the campaign was encouraging people to show kindness to the elderly. “It might not seem like much but the smallest gesture can make a big difference for a person finding it hard to cope in the winter months,” she said.

“This could be anything from giving them a lift to the shops, making sure their cupboards are well stocked, even just popping in and saying hello to an elderly friend or an older neighbour living on their own.  Something simple can make a really big difference.

“This campaign is about trying to make people understand that yes, there are plenty of older people out there who are active, in touch, engaged with their families and friends and who are participating in their communities fully.  But there are a lot of older people, particularly in rural and isolated areas, that struggle and who are not getting the support that they need. These are the people that can be to easily forgotten about, especially at Christmas.”

 

Age NI’s freephone advice service can be reached at 0808 808 7575.  To download a copy of the ‘Winter Wrapped Up’ booklet, visit www.ageni.org/wrappedup or call 028 9024 5729 to request a hard copy.  For more on the Spread the Warmth campaign and information on how set up a fundraising coffee morning, visit www.ageni.org/spreadthewarmth

 

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