Cold Weather Could Spell Bad News For Older Residents
With cold weather hitting Illinois, AARP is reminding friends, family and neighbors to watch out for the well-being of older residents, making sure they're safe and warm during the winter months. In the face of soaring heating costs, AARP is also encouraging people to join a new initiative aimed at helping residents conserve energy and reduce costs, while still keeping their homes safe and warm for the season.
"Cold weather is a fact of life in Illinois, but it can put many older adults at risk," said Bob Gallo, AARP Illinois Senior State Director. "Family, friends and neighbors can make a difference by helping older residents to stay warm and safe during winter."
People can take a number of steps to help make sure older residents are protected from the harsh Illinois winter. Among other things, they should make sure older residents are:
* Warm and safe indoors and outdoors: Make sure older residents wear warm clothing in several layers. When indoors, stay in a heated room; avoid fire hazards by having proper ventilation when using fireplaces, wood stoves, or space heaters. Functioning smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be installed.
* In good health: Make sure older adults continue their exercise regimens, but avoid overly strenuous physical activity; and maintain a healthy diet with plenty of liquids. Caregivers should make sure older adults get vaccinated against the flu and pneumonia.
* Able to go out safely when needed: Walkways and driveways should be free from snow and ice.
* Prepared for emergencies: Keep a phone with emergency numbers already pre-entered; and make sure older persons have a personal emergency response system available.
AARP recently launched Operation Energy Save, a new initiative to encourage residents to conserve energy by making small changes around the house to reduce costs. Operation Energy Save features easy-to-use checklists, instructional guides and simple tips to help residents save on energy expenses.
Older Illinoisans on fixed incomes tend to be hit especially hard by increases to home heating costs -- while they use about the same amount of energy as younger people, they spend twice as much to heat their homes. One out of every four low-income older persons spends 19% or more of their total income on home energy bills. A recent, nationwide AARP survey found that 22 percent of Americans are worried about being able to afford their home energy costs this winter.
To help with soaring home heating costs, eligible low-income residents, especially the elderly, can enroll in Illinois' Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIHEAP provides a one-time benefit to eligible households for energy bills on a first come, first serve basis.