WINTER brings specific threats to the health and wellbeing of local older people.

Cold temperatures can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of flu and other respiratory-related problems. Because blood pressure takes longer to return to normal, this can put people at greater risk of a heart attack or stroke. The results claim the lives of thousands of elderly people each winter.

Dr Arun Kallatt, consultant lead for elderly medicine at the Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said that, although there had not been as many flu cases at the Royal Bolton Hospital as this time last year, it was still vital for older people to have the flu vaccination. This was “very accessible from GPs’ surgeries and pharmacies.”

Keeping warm and a lack of activity are major seasonal problems for older people and Age UK urges everyone to “keep moving.” Take a short walk in the middle of the day or just walk about at home.

Even those with mobility problems can benefit. “People can still try to be active with, for example, chair exercises,” stated Dr Kallatt.

Eating and drinking well are especially important. Age UK recommends at least one hot meal each day and hot drinks throughout the day. Diet should include a good range of foods with five portions of fruit and vegetables each day. Frozen veg is as good as fresh.

Do food shopping online and get it delivered if it is difficult to get out and if you have appetite problems or are losing weight, speak to your GP.

Suzanne Hilton, chief executive of Age UK Bolton, explained: “Too often people assume that losing weight and becoming frail are a natural part of ageing but it is not.

“Being malnourished is seriously bad for our health and hampers our recovery. One in 10 older people in the community is malnourished or at risk of malnutrition.

“Bolton has until recently experienced one of the highest rates of malnutrition-related hospital admissions in Greater Manchester. Age UK is delighted, therefore, to be part of an innovative nutrition and hydration programme.”

The local organisation also offers social eating opportunities through lunch and leisure clubs or its pub lunch groups. “After all, food tastes better when you share it with someone – especially when you share a chat or a laugh, too,” added Suzanne.

To keep warm, opt for several thin layers of clothing rather than one thick layer as the layers trap warm air. Clothes made from wool or fleecy synthetic fibres are better than cotton. Start with thermal underwear, warm tights or socks.

Use a hot-water bottle, wheat bag or electric blanket to warm the bed. Close curtains in the evenings and fit thermal linings if possible. Keep bedroom windows closed at night as breathing in cold air increases the risk of chest infections.

Draught-proof doors and windows, insulate the loft, lag hot-water tanks and pipes and consider getting cavity wall insulation. Keep the main living room heated to 21 deg C (70 deg F) and the bedroom to 18 deg C (64 deg F).

Seek out company if you can. “Loneliness has become an epidemic that blights lives and is as bad for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or misusing alcohol,” stated Suzanne.

Age UK Bolton has an excellent befriending service with volunteers providing companionship and outings for lonely and socially isolated older people. Contact the Elderly also provides monthly outings for lonely elderly.

And Dr Kallatt urges everyone to keep an eye on elderly neighbours and friends “and check on them regularly.”

For more information go to https/ or call 01204 384211