Introduction to insulation for the elderly

When winter rolls around it brings inevitable illnesses such as coughs and colds. However, for many people and especially the elderly, winter can cause a number of more serious health complaints..

Among others, serious medical problems during the colder months can include heart attacks, strokes, breathing problems and hyperthermia. For those over 75 or with pre-existing medical issues, winter can be a fatal time of the year.

Why is it important to keep warm in winter?

The cold can have a significant effect on your health and as such, keeping warm during the winter months is vital. To fight off illness, your best chance is to keep warm in the home.

Of course, for many homeowners and tenants this can pose a problem in itself. Without sufficient insulation, heat can easily be lost through the walls, roof, windows, doors and even floor. As such, it can cost a fortune to heat the home and many people choose not to increase the temperature through fear of expensive energy bills.

However, it’s important to take the temperature of your home seriously especially in winter. You’ll be more susceptible to flu, heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia and depression if:

  • You’re aged 65 or over
  • You’re receiving a low income
  • You suffer from a long-term health problem
  • You are disabled.

Staggeringly, an estimated 23,200 deaths occurred in England and Wales in the 2018-19 winter because of cold weather and, in 2017, 10.9% of households (approximately 2.53 million) were stuck in fuel poverty in England alone. Fuel poverty affects homes where energy bills are above 10% of annual income. If you are in fuel poverty and struggling to pay bills, it’s past time you took action.

Preparing your home for the cold weather

When winter is drawing in, it’s important to be prepared and ensure you’re as ready as possible for the long, cold months ahead. Temperatures will plummet below freezing and without adequate insulation, heat will be sucked from your home.

However, there are some crucial checks to make in the build-up to winter:

Have your boiler serviced. The chances are your boiler will have been switched off over the summer months, so when it’s turned on around October/November time, this is when problems strike. Have your boiler serviced by a Gas Safe registered engineer and ensure it’s ready for the tough winter ahead. The last thing you need is a breakdown in the heart of winter when call-out fees often double.

Insulate your home. Insulation helps to retain heat inside your property and will be discussed in more depth later in this guide. Heat can be lost through the walls, loft, floor, windows and even doors. Contact your energy supplier and find out if you’re eligible for free insulation.

Join the Priority Services Register. The Priority Services Register has been implemented to help those requiring special care and attention if their gas or electricity is cut off. The register applies to those who are who are receiving a state pension, havewithhave a disability or are chronically ill. A password is provided to your energy account too, so if someone calls round to take a meter reading, they’ll say the password and you’ll know they’re genuine.

Have all those odd jobs completed. Once the winter weather hits, the dark nights come in quickly. For this reason it’s a good idea to have any odd jobs tidied up and finished before then. Perhaps you have a light bulb that needs changing or want to fit a draught excluder. If there are any jobs you don’t feel confident taking on yourself, bring in a competent handyman to help you out.

Fill your cupboards with the essentials. For much of the winter it’ll be perfectly fine to travel out and about. However, keep an eye on the weather report and beware of any periods when the weather will really take a turn for the worse. Make sure to stock your cupboards full of tinned foods, long life milk, fruit juices, dried goods and packets. Also ensure there’s enough frozen meat, fish and vegetables in case you won’t be able to venture to the shops for a few days.

Insulation

Insulating your home

When it comes to energy efficiency and keeping your home warm, insulation will be near the top of the list. Insulation is designed to protect you from the cold weather and reduce heating bills, by locking warmth inside. Uninsulated or poorly insulated properties will lose hundreds of pounds worth of heat each year.

It’s not just from an energy saving perspective that insulation is a great idea either. Not only will insulation keep you warm and cosy inside your own home, but it’ll help to lower condensation and reduce sound pollution too.

It seems all properties have a different level of insulation already in place. New build homes typically hold better energy ratings than period properties, especially those built prior to 1920. There are three areas to consider insulation for your home and remember, you could even be eligible for free insulation or a grant to support the cost.

Wall Insulation Overview

Uninsulated walls are by far the biggest contributor for heat loss. 45% of the heat produced in your home can be lost through an uninsulated solid wall. That’s exactly the reason it pays to invest in wall insulation for your home. Just think, the colder it is outside, the quicker heat will escape. In the winter, you’re losing almost half of the heat your boiler creates.

There are two types of external wall and knowing which your home has will be advantageous. These are cavity walls and solid walls. Cavity walls have been included in most homes built after 1920. They have a space between the inner and outer brickwork, known as the cavity. Filling this space with insulation will prevent much of your home’s heat escaping.

How much will I save with cavity wall insulation?

Take a look at the following table to gain an insight into how much of a difference cavity wall insulation can have on your heating bills:

Cavity Wall InsulationDetachedSemi detachedMid terraceBungalowFlat
Annual Saving£255£150£95£105£70
Installation Cost£725£475£370£430£330
CO2 Saving Each Year1040kg620kg380kg420kg290kg

All figures from the Energy Saving Trust, based on fuel prices as of April 2019.

If you don't have cavity walls, you’ll likely have solid walls. Uninsulated solid walls allow twice as much heat to escape, so money is just slipping between your fingers every day.

Solid walls are generally thinner than their cavity equivalents. On most occasions, if your walls are less than 260mm in thickness they’ll be solid. Take a tape measurer to a window or doorframe and measure here.

It is more difficult and expensive to invest in solid wall insulation, although the number of benefits is increased. As well as energy saving qualities, external solid wall insulation will cover cracks and draughts, enhance weather proofing and reduce condensation.

The following table shows the potential savings achievable with solid wall insulation:

How much will I save with solid wall insulation?


Solid Wall InsulationDetachedSemi detachedMid terraceBungalowFlat
Annual Saving£435£260£160£175£120
Annual CO2 Saving1,770kg1,050kg650kg710kg490kg

All figures from the Energy Saving Trust, based on fuel prices as of April 2019.

Wall Insulation FAQs


A. Wall insulation helps to lock heat inside your home. As much as 45% of your property’s heat can be lost through an uninsulated wall.

A. Wall insulation acts as an extra barrier to prevent heat loss. With cavity or solid wall insulation you can save hundreds of pounds annually on your energy bills.

A. The cost of wall insulation varies depending on your home. Cavity wall insulation typically costs between £300 and £750. Solid wall insulation can be much more expensive.

A. Contact a professional insulation expert. They will drill a small hole into your wall to measure how much insulation (if any) you currently have.

A. Check our Energy Grants section to see if you’re eligible for free wall insulation. Contact your energy supplier to find out if they will offer insulation deals. Also use Checkatrade or Quotatis to find trusted and reputable companies in your area.

Loft & Roof Insulation Overview

Loft insulation is vital for any property because heat naturally rises. As such, without adequate insulation in place, warmth will simply escape through your loft and roof, wasting hundreds of pounds each year.

There are a couple of options for installing loft insulation depending on how accessible your loft is. If the loft has a hatch and there’s plenty of room to get inside and walk around, mineral wool is a fantastic insulator. This is rolled between joists and over the beams to prevent heat from rising up from below.

It can be a pretty hands on job, so if you don’t feel like taking this on yourself, ask a friend or relative to fit insulation for you. It’s not a task that’ll take a significant length of time. If you know an elderly relative in need of loft insulation, even offer your services to help them keep their home warm.

If the loft is inaccessible you’ll need to hire a professional for the job. Loft insulating experts will blow insulation into the space above using specialist equipment. Again, this won’t take a great deal of time and insulation can be in place within just a few hours.

On a side note, if your loft suffers from any damp or condensation problems prior to insulation, it’s important to have these sorted beforehand. Once insulation has been fitted the loft area will become even cooler and problems will only worsen.

How much will I save with loft insulation?

Take a look at the table below to get an idea of how loft insulation can save you money every year.

Loft Insulation (0-270mm)Detached houseSemi detached houseMid terrace houseDetached bungalow
Annual Saving£225£135£120£195
Installation Cost£395£300£285£375
CO2 Saving Annually920kg550kg490kg790kg

All figures from the Energy Saving Trust, based on fuel prices as of April 2019.

Loft Insulation FAQs


A. Loft insulation comes in the form of mineral wool. It is either fixed between the wooden beams in your loft or blown in with special equipment.

A. Heat naturally rises, so the loft can be a culprit in losing considerable heat from your property. With correctly installed loft insulation you can save up to £250 a year on heating bills.

How much will loft insulation cost?

A. If your loft is easily accessible, you or a friend or family member can climb up and see if mineral wool has been laid between the joists. If your loft can’t be accessed, contact a professional loft insulator who will assess the situation.

A. Check our Energy Grants section to see if you’re eligible for free loft insulation. Contact your energy supplier to find out if they will offer insulation deals. Also use Checkatrade or Quotatis to find trusted and reputable companies in your area.

Floor Insulation Overview

When you think of the areas heat can be lost in the home, the floor probably wouldn’t be the first place that springs to mind. However, with floor insulation in position you can save up to £95 annually and by filling draught holes around the skirting boards there’s a potential to save more still.

Before talking about floor insulation in more depth, it’s worth touching on eliminating draughts. This is a job that can be completed by you or even a close friend or family member. You won’t need any particular DIY skills either. Buy a sealant from any DIY store near you and apply to the areas where necessary.

You can save between £10 and £15 every year by filling in the gaps and all you’ll need is a sealant gun. When doing this, just be sure not to block any airbricks as the floorboards can be susceptible to rot without ventilation.

You, a friend, family member or even a professional can fit floor insulation. It’s often quite a fiddly job though requiring lots of labour, so if you don’t feel up to the task, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

The floorboards will need to be lifted and insulation fitted underneath. Before putting insulation down, just ensure there are no signs of rot or damp evident. If there are, have this professionally looked at before continuing.

If the wooden joists are in good condition, you’re fine to proceed with insulation. If necessary you can use netting to hold the insulation in place. Remember, you will only need to insulate the ground floor. Upper floor insulation is only required when the room’s above a garage.

Solid floors will typically lose less heat than suspended timber floors, but it’s still well worth insulating them. Rigid insulation is placed down, then covered by chipboard and your chosen flooring material. This means the floor level will be raised and could result in electrical sockets relocated and doors shaved.

How much will I save with floor insulation?

Take a look at table; outlining the potential savings associated with floor insulation:

Solid Floor InsulationDetached HomeSemi Detached HomeMid Terrace HomeBungalow
Approximate Annual Saving£70£40£25£90
Approximate Annual CO2 Saving280kg160kg110kg250kg
Cost£520-£1300£520-£1300£520-£1300£520-£1300

All figures from the Energy Saving Trust, based on fuel prices as of April 2019.

Floor Insulation FAQs


A. Floor insulation is fitted beneath your home’s floorboards and often tied down with netting. Rigid insulation boards can be placed on solid floors to insulate if necessary.

A. Floor insulation prevents heat escaping your property, bringing down those expensive energy bills. Floor insulation can save you over £100 every year.

A. Costs vary between solid floor and suspended timber floor insulation. Solid floor insulation is typically more expensive and can set you back upwards of £900. Suspended timber floor insulation is significantly cheaper at around £300.

A. The only way to determine if your floor is insulated is to lift up a floorboard and have a look. This can be done by a professional if you don’t feel up to the task.

A. Check our Energy Grants section to see if you’re eligible for free loft insulation. Contact your energy supplier to find out if they will offer insulation deals. Also use Checkatrade or Quotatis to find trusted and reputable companies in your area.

Window

Replacing your windows

The windows in your home are another source of significant heat loss. Every day they can lose up to 20% of the warmth your central heating produces, wasting hundreds of pounds on a yearly basis.

Therefore, upgrading your windows is very important and you will benefit from a number of excellent advantages:

  • Reduce your heating bills
  • Cut carbon dioxide emissions
  • Eliminate draughts and cold spots
  • Keep your home in peace and quiet
  • Limit condensation.

Replacement windows vary in price and many attributes will reflect the total cost. This includes aspects such as the frame material, glass used and size of the window.

Window frame materials

There are various frame materials to choose from with your replacement windows and these can be chosen on an aesthetic, cost effective or efficient preference.

uPVC window frames. uPVC is by far the cheapest frame material you could choose from and this product is hardwearing, durable and resistant. These are the reasons it’s a favourite in the construction industry and is used in window, door and conservatory manufacture.

Wooden window frames. Wooden frames hold an aesthetic appeal that’s unrivalled and is particularly great for traditional properties. Wood is also an eco-friendly option for your windows, but it will require plenty of maintenance to keep in tip top condition.

Aluminium window frames. If strength and durability are your top concerns, aluminium frames will be the optimal choice. As you could imagine from a metal, aluminium is incredibly resistant and won’t rot, warp, crack or peel.

Windows are rated from A to G, with all aspects taken into account when determining the rating. The British Fenestration Rating Council (BFRC) governs this.

Conservation areas

If you live in a conservation area or listed building, it can be difficult to have your windows replaced, as it’ll change the exterior appeal. Conservation areas are protected by local councils and you can be fined without seeking planning permission first. If you’re ever unsure on regulations in your area, speak to a local planning officer.

Double glazing

Double glazing windows are the nation’s favourite and with these thermally efficient units installed you can save over £200 annually. By law, all new build homes must be equipped with double glazing and without it you can be losing up to 20% of heat produced.

So what is double glazing? It’s manufactured with two panes of glass separated by an inert (motionless) gas spacer. This energy efficient gas spacer can be one of Argon, Xenon or Krypton and prevents heat passing through the unit.

What are the benefits of double glazing?


Reduce annual energy bills. Energy bills seem continually on the rise. National suppliers including the ‘big six’ raise prices simultaneously so there’s nowhere to hide. However, with double glazing you can fight back and cut expenses. As heat is trapped inside your home there’s no need to turn up the thermostat – saving you money.

Slash home CO2 emissions. This is a consequence of not needing to up your boiler’s temperature for extra heating requirements. The central heating releases CO2 emissions so by lowering your output, you’ll also be cutting back on your carbon footprint.

Create a comfortable environment. Replacement windows will eliminate the draughts and cold spots in your home. This ensures a more comfortable home for you to enjoy throughout the year, without fluctuating temperatures.

Improve sound insulation. The energy efficient spacer in your double glazing has a dual effect of reducing heat loss and keeping unwanted noise pollution out. This leaves you with a quieter home to enjoy all year round.

The energy efficient spacer in your double glazing has a dual effect of reducing heat loss and keeping unwanted noise pollution out. This leaves you with a quieter home to enjoy all year round.

How much will I save with double glazing?

Windows are rated from A to G for energy efficiency, with A being the most efficient and therefore saving you the most money.

You could save between £110 and £140 a year in heating costs if you had category B-rated double glazing and lived in a detached house, with savings slightly lower for other types of home.

Double Glazing FAQs


A. Double glazing is an efficient window design manufactured from two panes of glass. An energy efficient gas spacer fills the gap between these panes and aids in preventing heat loss.

A. Double glazing will help save significant money compared to single glazing. With A-rated double glazed windows you can save close to £200 a year, whilst enjoying other benefits such as less noise pollution, reduced condensation and an aesthetic appeal.

A. Double glazing costs vary depending on the size of your window. The average window costs around £300 to double glaze though.

A. You can quickly identify if your windows are double glazed. There will be two panes of glass with a gap between them.

A. Use an online directory such as Checkatrade or Quotatis to find trusted and reputable companies in your area.

Secondary glazing

Double glazing can be expensive and not every property will be able to have it fitted. For that reason it’s worth considering your other options, including secondary glazing.

For conservation area homes and listed buildings, the chances are double glazing won’t be approved by the local council. On the other hand, secondary glazing often gains approval because it won’t change the exterior appeal of your property. Instead, a second pane of glass is fitted on the interior of the first.

Secondary glazing will provide all the benefits double glazing does too, but just to a smaller scale. It’ll help you save around £100 a year on heating bills as well.

A cheaper option still, is fitting thin and transparent film to the window panes. This can be purchased from most DIY stores and when fitted correctly you’ll hardly notice it’s there.

Electrics

Boiler replacement

Energy bills have more than doubled since 2004 and the average household pays close to £1,300 a year for gas and electricity. The boiler is a major contributor to this cost, especially as your heating covers around 55% of the annual bill. By replacing your boiler there’s an opportunity to save over £300 a year, according to the Energy Saving Trust.

Upgrading an inefficient boiler

The difference between modern boilers and those installed 20 to 30 years ago, is the improved efficiency qualities. Nowadays, a new boiler will typically be condensing. With a larger heat exchanger, condensing boilers will recover more heat and therefore, operate to higher efficiency levels.

Only gas at a cool temperature will be released and this can turn into water vapour. The boiler will extract energy from this vapour also, ensuring efficiency is further improved.

Not only should you choose an A or B-rated boiler to be installed in your home, but also switch to gas heating if it’s available. Electric and oil are much more expensive than gas, so you’ll save money this way too.

Ideally, you’ll also have a combi boiler. Combi boilers are perfect for small families and those living alone or with a partner. They are small and can fit into a kitchen cupboard or be fixed onto the wall. Combi boilers are efficient and will provide hot water on demand, rather than needing to be heated in a water tank first.

How much will I save by replacing my boiler?

Take a look at the following table to see how much you can save on energy bills by upgrading your inefficient boiler.

Old Boiler RatingSemi Detached HomeDetached HomeBungalowMid Terrace HomeMid Floor Flat
G£315£205£160£80£100
F£220£145£110£125£70
E£190£120£95£105£60
D£70£110£85£95£55

All figures from the Energy Saving Trust, based on fuel prices as of April 2019.

Replacement Boiler FAQs


A. If your boiler is over 15–years-old, you’ll be wasting hundreds of pounds annually. A replacement boiler will burn fuel more efficiently and as such, save you up to £310 a year.

A. Replacement boilers vary depending on the make, model and the company carrying out theinstallation. The boiler will typically cost around £1,500, with labour costs on top of this.

A. The registration of boilers became a legal requirement in 2005. Find the serial number and call the manufacturer to locate the boiler’s age.

A. Check our Energy Grants section to see if you’re eligible for a free boiler replacement. Also use an online directory such as Checkatrade or Quotatis to find trusted and reputable companies in your area.

Hot water tank and pipe lagging

Without insulation for your hot water tank and piping, heat can simply escape and cool the water quickly. This means more energy is required to heat the system once again. However, insulation for these areas is extremely rewarding and pretty easy to fit. Payback is less than a year too in most instances.

If your hot water tank already has a jacket wrapped around it, you’ll want to check the thickness. Ideally it’ll need to be more than 75mm thick as this will reduce heat loss by 75% and save you up to £35 a year. A new jacket will only set you back £15, so there are almost instant savings.

Just like a boiler jacket, pipe insulation is also viable and great for saving money. You can buy foam cylinder insulation from most DIY stores and they’ll already have a slit whereby you can slot the insulation onto the pipe.

How much will I save with hot water tank & pipe insulation?

The table below highlights the potential energy savings achievable with hot water tank and pipe insulation:


Annual SavingDIY CostTime Taken To Pay for ItselfCarbon Dioxide Saving Per Year
Hot water tank top-up insulation (25-80mm)£17-£19£15Six months90kg-100kg
Hot water tank jacket on an uninsulated tank£75-£85£15Less than six months400kg-450kg
Pipe insulation£10£20Two years45kg

All figures from the Energy Saving Trust, based on fuel prices as of April 2019.

Smart meters & Thermostats

Upgrading your heating system is a great way to reduce overall energy bills, but it’s also worth considering thermostats and a dedicated control system. With the right controls for your central heating you’ll be in a better position to reduce energy expenses and avoid the wastage of fuel.

Any boiler can be controlled by use of specific controls and no matter how basic, you’ll be able to save quite a bit of money. There’s an opportunity to have thermostats and controls for individual rooms or connected to the full central heating system.

No matter the age of your boiler it’s possible to invest in controls that’ll programme times for your heating and hot water to switch on. Savings can be significant too and for a three-bedroomed semi detached property, there’s the possibility of reducing bills between £70 and £150 a year.

If you are already making use of dedicated controls for your central heating, then consider the prospect of turning temperatures down ever so slightly. Just one degree won’t make a recognisable difference to your home’s temperature, yet can save up to £75 on annual bills.

Remember, you won’t need to upgrade your boiler to make use of specific controls. However, for anyone with a boiler over 15-years-old it’s well worth upgrading now to save over £300 a year on heating.

Elderly Isolation

Essentials of safe independent living for the elderly

From time to time, many of us will feel lonely. But as you get older, these feelings can become more frequent – especially if you now live alone or can’t get out as much as you’d like. In fact, the number of over-50s experiencing loneliness is set to reach two million by 2025/6, according to Age UK

But the charity did warn that people of all ages can suffer with loneliness. For example, leaving full-time education can be a vulnerable time for younger people. People can feel lonely for a number of reasons. If they’ve moved to a new area, recently lost a loved one or are experiencing the onset of illness or disability. These are all common trigger points for loneliness.

In recent times, we’ve also seen how events such as weather and a health pandemic can create unexpected loneliness.

Record levels of flooding in February left many people either stuck in their homes or evacuated. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic means many people are isolating themselves, potentially alone and with minimal interaction with anyone.

The world can seem frightening and being unable to go about your usual routine can have a knock-on effect on anyone’s wellbeing. And older people living alone can be among those most affected.

Dealing with loneliness

Not only can loneliness make you feel awful, it can seriously affect people’s health and well-being. Some of the effects include:
  • Increased stress levels
  • Decreased memory and learning
  • Poor decision-making
  • Alcoholism and drug abuse

Source: Very well mind

If you’re feeling lonely, it’s best to start taking action. But when you’re not feeling great, it can be tempting to think nobody would want to hear from you. What’s more, it can feel more difficult during the Coronavirus pandemic. But one positive outcome of these difficult times has been how people have come together in support of each other. 

You will have heard of great stories about people’s sense of community getting stronger. Whether that’s neighbours delivering shopping, people checking in with you, or putting up drawings, photos and print-outs of rainbows for others to spot on a walk, it’s clear we want to look out for one another. Rarely before have people been so grateful for and looked forward to each other’s company. 

While recent ONS data has shown that just over half of adults (53.1%) said coronavirus was affecting their well-being, over 2 in 3 (67.9%) also said they thought people are doing more to help others since the coronavirus outbreak. There’s more good news too:

  • 54.9% said they have a sense of belonging with other residents in their local community during the coronavirus pandemic
  • 57% said other local community members would support them if they needed help during the coronavirus pandemic

We may have had to adapt our lives somewhat, but it’s nice to hear that many people are finding support nearby. 

In particular, the way we socialise and spend our leisure time has changed. But it doesn’t have to mean loneliness is inevitable, as there are popular ways to deal with the changes. Staying in touch with friends and family remotely is the most common action that is helping people cope with staying at home (76.9%). But other leisures activities have been popular too:

  • Watching films (55.5%>
  • Reading (39.2%)
  • Gardening (37.6%) 
  • Cooking (34.2%)

Have you tried any of these? What do you enjoy? Devoting time to the things you enjoy doing is always a good idea if you’re feeling down. 

Many will find a natural source of emotional support in friends, family and neighbours. But some might prefer to speak to someone else. There are other people to talk to:

  • Age UK’s free telephone befriending service,Call in Time
  • Silverline’s free< a href="https://www.thesilverline.org.uk/telephone-friendship/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener">telephone friendship calls (for people aged 55 and over)

At the moment, any service over the phone is a safe way to make new connections. But you may find demand for these services is high, so do be patient.

When it is safe to do so, there are also many face-to-face befriending services run by local Age UKs. Volunteers can visit your home, have a cup of tea and a chat. You could also go and enjoy activities together. It can make a huge difference to someone feeling lonely or isolated, and there are many great stories of friendships that have started this way.

Looking after your well-being and safety

If you live alone, it’s important to look after yourself as well as your home.  Feeling lonely might make it harder for you to feel motivated to make positive steps. But addressing the following areas can start to have a positive impact on how you’re feeling.

Sleep

Do you feel like you’re getting too much sleep, or too little? This will affect your mood. Having a caffeinated drink late in the day or spending too much time staring at screens can affect your ability to drift off. It’s easy to fall into the trap of having too many daytime naps when there isn’t much to do. Start to pay attention to your sleeping routine and consider if there’s anything you can do to change it.

Diet

A stable blood sugar level can help your mood and energy levels. Eating smaller portions spread throughout the day and avoiding foods which will spike your blood sugar (e.g. sweets, biscuits, sugary drinks) can help regulate your sugar levels. It’s also recommended you stay hydrated (around 6-8 glasses of fluids a day), manage caffeine intake and, of course, eat your five a day. 

Mind also warns that some foods can be dangerous to eat if you're taking certain medications:

  • MAOI. If you’re taking this kind of antidepressant, you should avoid eating anything which has been fermented, spoiled pickled, smoked, cured, hung, dried or matured. Foods containing tyramine, typically ones with caffeine, should also be avoided.
  • Lithium. You need to be careful with the amount of salt in your diet – changing the amount of salt and fluid in your body can affect lithium levels.
  • Buspirone or other anti-anxiety medications. Grapefruit can affect the way enzymes break down certain anti-anxiety medications. This means too much or too little of the drug may be absorbed into your blood, so you’ll need to avoid eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice.

If you’re taking any medication, your doctor should have explained any of these possible side effects. But if you have any worries, speak to them or your local pharmacy for advice.

Exercise

It’s proven that physical activity can impact your mood. Not only can it release endorphins that make you feel better about yourself, it can also help you sleep better and manage racing thoughts.

Mind also mentions how it can be a good way to connect with new people. Although this might not be currently possible, when we’re able to socialise again, joining a shared activity like a walking club can help you make new friends.

But for the time being, there are suitable ways to exercise – no matter your age. Joe Wicks has recently hit the headlines for his weekday ‘PE with Joe’ sessions. But not only is he the nation’s PE teacher, he’s filmed a series of exercise videos aimed specifically at older people, including chair-based sessions. 

If possible, spending time in the fresh air can boost your mood too. Whether this is to do some exercise, which could be something like gardening, or just to relax in your garden, getting outside can help your wellbeing. Under the current government recommendations, there are no restrictions on spending time in your own garden. You are also allowed to leave your house to exercise or spend time in a local park.

How to prioritise essential household tasks

If you’ve only recently started living alone, perhaps due to a bereavement, or you’re struggling with your mood, some of the household tasks in the rest of this guide may seem difficult. Indeed, upgrading your windows or boiler may save you money, but taking on new responsibilities can be daunting.

Remember it’s okay to take your time. Planning can be empowering and give you back a bit of control over what needs to be done – and what could wait. Age UK recommend the following steps:

  1. Make a list of everything you need to do. This includes everything that’s involved in the upkeep of your home. It might feel like you’re writing down a lot, but it helps with the steps later on if you’re honest about what needs to be done. It can include smaller tasks like food shopping or paying bills, as well as larger changes such as getting a smart meter installed.
  2. Prioritise the tasks. Start to understand the tasks – what is regular? What is urgent? And what is an ad hoc task? Building this understanding can help you realise not everything can be done at once, and should be tackled in smaller chunks.
  3. Set a schedule for completing the tasks. Start putting in your regular tasks (for example, a weekly clean) and see how much time you have left. Then put in some of the higher priority ad hoc tasks and you’ll start to build a schedule of when you’ll be doing what. Remember these are good achievements and you should be proud when you’ve completed one.

Don’t cram too many tasks into your schedule. Especially during these difficult times, you have to leave yourself some time to relax.

Elderly Couple

Energy grants

If you feel you’re unable to invest in energy efficiency measures for your home because of a lack of funds, then there’s no need to worry as there are other options. Fortunately, the Government provides £100s of millions in cash every year to help improve the state of British households.

It’s quite staggering, but much of the free cash incentives go unclaimed, mostly because people don’t actually realise they’re available. This is what we want to change with this guide. Most, but not all of these grants, are dedicated to the elderly, disabled and those on low incomes. So have a look at the various grants below and find out what you’re eligible for.

What is a grant?

Grants cover the initial outlay of cost for something you would otherwise spend your money on. On most occasions a grant won’t cover the full price, but this is free money after all and not to be scoffed at.

Energy grants are offered by the Government and national suppliers, to help subsidise the initial cost of implementing efficiency improvements. In the winter there are also payments available to help with the cost of heating your property.

By taking a grant from the Government you’ll end up with a warmer home, which is much more affordable to run. There are big savings to be made on those expensive energy bills, especially if your home is inadequately insulated and losing lots of the warmth your central heating creates.

Remember, many of the ways you can improve the energy efficiency of your home have been outlined elsewhere in this guide. They include improvements such as wall and loft insulation, replacing your boiler and upgrading to double glazing.

Free boilers and insulation

Many of the big energy suppliers are handing out grants for boilers and insulation to households based on exact demographics. This is all because of obligations placed upon them by the Government.

It’s certainly worthwhile contacting your energy supplier to find out what you’re eligible for, as each company varies in what they’re offering. A replacement boiler for instance can cost up to £2,300 so if you have the chance of one fitted free-of-charge, then it's a fantastic opportunity.

With the boiler accounting for 55% of your overall energy bill, it makes sense to start here when considering energy efficiency. Depending on your current boiler and the model it’s replaced with, you can save over £300 a year on heating bills.

Cavity walls and loft insulation are certainly the most common freebies offered by energy companies. With cavity wall insulation you have the chance of saving up to £250 a year and the same can be said for loft insulation too.

Remember, this free insulation is available to those on income related credits and state pension. It won’t hurt to contact your supplier, no matter who they are and find out what you are or aren’t eligible for. You could save a small fortune by simply picking up the phone.

How Do I Get A Free Boiler?

It’s easy enough to apply for your free boiler – just approach one of the providers offering a free assessment. You can choose any of them and you don’t have to be an existing customer to qualify.

EDF Energy: Fill out their application form or call 0800 096 8634. If extra work is required such as radiator installation, you may be asked to help with the cost.

Npower: Apply on the Npower website or call 0800 980 3355.

Scottish & Southern (SSE): Complete their online form. If the replacement boiler won’t save enough energy to meet targets, you may be asked to contribute to the cost.

How Do I Get Free Insulation?

Contact a free insulation provider. You don’t have to be a customer for eligibility.

British Gas: Call 0800 294 9126 (open 8am-8pm Mon to Fri, 10am-4pm Sat).

EDF: Complete the online application form or call 0800 096 8634.

Npower: Apply directly on the Npower website or call 0800 072 1740.

E.on: Apply on the E.on website or call 0330 4001195.

Scottish & Southern: Fill out an online enquiry form or call 0800 975 2844.

Winter Fuel Payment

What Is The Winter Fuel Payment?

The Winter Fuel Payment is available to elderly residents in the UK and can be worth up to £300 a year. The Government typically issues the money before Christmas and is intended to help you pay increased bills over this period. The Winter Fuel Payment isn’t affected by any other benefits you currently receive.

Am I Eligible For The Winter Fuel Payment?

The Winter Fuel Payment is provided to all UK residents receiving a state pension, pension credit, social credit or jobseeker’s allowance.

How Much Will I Save With The Winter Fuel Payment?

The table below shows how much you could be entitled to receive under the Winter Fuel Payment scheme:

CircumstanceAged 60+Aged 80+
You qualify£200£300
You live with someone who qualifies£100£150

All figures from the government website.

If you qualify to receive the Winter Fuel Payment you will receive a letter instructing you of this. The letter will inform you when to expect payment and how much you will receive.

How Can I Apply For The Winter Fuel Payment?

You usually receive the Winter Fuel Payment automatically if you are eligible. If you do not get paid automatically, you need to make a claim. You must also make a claim if you’ve not had the payment before and any of following apply:

  • You do not get benefits or a State Pension
  • You only get Universal Credit, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction or Child Benefit
  • You get benefits or a State Pension but live in Switzerland or an EEA country

To receive the Winter Fuel Payment for 2019-2020 you must make a claim before March 2020.

Make your claim for the Winter Fuel Payment in the following ways:

Call 0800 731 0160(UK households)

Call +44 (0)191 218 7777 (Outside UK)

You can also complete the Winter Fuel Payment claim form and send it to:

Winter Fuel Payment Centre
Mail Handling Site A
Wolverhampton
WV98 1LR

Cold Weather Payment

What Is The Cold Weather Payment?

The Cold Weather Payment is completely different to the Winter Fuel Payment and is only applied to eligible people when temperatures are below zero degrees. It must reach this temperature for at least seven days in a row between November and March.

The scheme pays out £25 for every seven consecutive days when temperatures are below zero. This will be made within 14 days of the incident.

Am I Eligible For The Cold Weather Payment?

The Cold Weather Payment is available to those receiving Pension Credit, Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance or Support Allowance. There’s no need to apply for the scheme and instead the rebate will automatically be paid into your bank account. Just check with the pension centre if there are any problems and they’ll be happy to help resolve issues.

How To Apply For The Cold Weather Payment

You don’t need to apply for this scheme. If you’re eligible, you’ll automatically receive the payment.

Warm Home Discount

What Is The Warm Home Discount Scheme?

The Warm Home Discount is another scheme put in place by the Government, obligating the UK’s major energy suppliers to help vulnerable households. By law, the nation’s leading utility companies must comply with the scheme and £140 is available on a rebate for energy bills. There is a deadline to apply for this scheme each winter, so make sure to find out when it is, ahead of the colder months.

The Warm Home Discount is mostly on offer for those in receipt of Pension Credit. You can still qualify for the discount if you use a pre-pay or pay-as-you-go electricity meter.

Am I Eligible For The Warm Home Discount?

You will be eligible to apply for the Warm Home Discount if:

  • Your energy supplier is participating in the scheme
  • You are aged 75 or over and in receipt of Pension Credit
  • Your name is on the electricity bill
  • You’re on a low income and meet your energy supplier’s criteria for the scheme.

From 2015 the scheme will also officially include low-income families. Some energy companies had already been supporting low-income families, but the Government now ensure vulnerable households are certain to receive help.

Rather than receiving a cash payment, money will instead be subtracted from your energy bill between October and March. After applying, you’ll receive a letter in the post by December 24 to inform you of your eligibility.

Which Energy Suppliers Are Involved In The Scheme?

There are a number of energy suppliers participating in the Warm Home Discount and these include:

Atlantic, British Gas, Co-operative Energy, EDF Energy, E.ON, Equipower (Ebico), Equigas (Ebico), First Utility, Manweb (Scottish Power), M&S Energy, Npower, Sainsbury's Energy, Scottish Gas (British Gas), Scottish Hydro, ScottishPower, Southern Electric, SSE, SWALEC, Utility Warehouse.

How To Apply For The Warm Home Discount

There is no need to apply for the Warm Home Discount and you’ll automatically receive a letter by post in autumn or winter. This will inform you that you’ll either:

  • Receive the discount automatically
  • Need to apply before a certain date.

Contact the Warm Home Discount Team if you believe you qualify but haven’t received a letter.

Telephone: 0345 603 9439
Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
Warm Home Discount Team
Pink Zone, 1st Floor
Peel Park
Brunel Way
Blackpool
FY4 5ES

Scotland’s Energy Assistance Scheme

If you live in Scotland, are aged over 60 and in receipt of benefits, you could be eligible for the Government’s Energy Assistance Scheme. This is an upgraded version of the Energy Assistance Package and provides financial help towards the cost of home heating.

All homeowners in Scotland can receive free help and advice on energy efficiency, as a way to reduce expensive fuel bills. Then, if you’re eligible you could receive free insulation, draught proofing or a replacement heating system.

What Is The Energy Assistance Scheme?

The Energy Assistance Scheme is designed to help homeowners improve energy efficiency. The Energy Saving Trust administers the scheme.

Scheme 1: Receive free advice on improving your home’s energy efficiency.

Scheme 2: Your advisor will help you calculate if you’re eligible for credits and benefits. The Energy Saving Trust will also help you switch to a cheaper energy tariff.

Scheme 3: If you are aged over 70, you could be eligible for free insulation such as loft lagging and cavity wall insulation. Eligible applicants may also receive an upgraded central heating system.

Scheme 4: All homeowners and private landlords can apply for insulation and heating grants if your home has no central heating, has a poor energy rating or you receive benefits.

Am I Eligible For The Energy Assistance Scheme?

Scheme 1 is available to all householders in Scotland, whilst Scheme 2 helps you determine if you’re eligible for extra benefits.

To be eligible for Scheme 3 you must meet ONE of the following criteria:

  • You or your partner must be aged over 75
  • You or your partner must be aged over 70 and not have central heating installed
  • You currently receive Government benefits.

Scheme 4 applies to over 60s with no central heating AND homeowners with a low energy rating in receipt of one of the following:

  • Child tax credits
  • Working tax credits
  • Attendance allowance
  • Disability living allowance
  • Employment & support allowance
  • Income support
  • Housing benefit
  • Council tax benefit
  • Industrial injuries disablement benefit
  • War disablement pension.

How to apply for the Energy Assistance Scheme

To apply for the Energy Assistance Scheme, simply contact Energy Saving Scotland on 0800 512 012. They will be able to provide advice on your next steps.

An Energy Saving Advisor will ask questions about your home and circumstances to find out what you could qualify for.

For more information visit www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/scotlandor call 0800 512 012.

Smart Meter

Tips & tricks around the home

There are more ways to save money than just investing in energy efficient improvements. Of course, the suggestions outlined in this guide should certainly be considered, as there’s the opportunity to save hundreds of pounds on a yearly basis.

However, by just changing your energy habits there’s the potential to save money without making an upfront investment.

10 Free Tips To Help You Save Money

If you can, try implementing some or all of the following energy saving tips. They’ll help you create a more comfortable home environment and knock a few quid off your monthly energy bills too.

1. Switch your energy supplier

With national energy suppliers increasing the cost of gas and electricity at a yearly rate, it makes sense to compare providers and switch to the cheapest tariff. Why pay more for the same service when you don’t need to? Surprisingly there’s around £300 difference between the most expensive energy supplier and the cheapest, so there is the potential to save hundreds of pounds by switching.

It’s easy to quickly compare the cheapest tariff rates too. uSwitch provides a service whereby you enter in your details and they’ll show you which energy suppliers are the cheapest in your area.

Not only could you switch supplier, but then also fix your rates for a certain period of time. This is typically up to 24 months and means over this time, energy bills won’t become more expensive. With variable tariff rates your bills will fluctuate, but as you probably know, energy suppliers are rarely dropping prices.

How to switch your energy supplier:

  1. Visit the uSwitch website
  2. Type in your postcode, email address and phone number
  3. Click ‘compare gas & electricity prices’
  4. Choose a cheaper energy supplier in your area
  5. Save up to £412 every year on bills!

2. Pay by monthly direct debit

There’s also an opportunity to save money with your supplier, just by switching the way you pay bills. Better deals can always be found online, so setting up a direct debit will likely be cheaper than paying by cash or cheque. If your home consumes both gas and electricity, it’s also worth having a dual tariff - so you’re buying from the same supplier.

If you have access to the Internet, opt for paperless bills too and instead view the expenses online. Many suppliers offer a small discount to customers choosing paperless bills.

3. Wrap up warm in the winter

Of course, there are times when you’ll need the central heating to warm up your home. However, if the heating’s on and you’re walking around in a t-shirt, this is just money being thrown away. Instead, turn down the thermostat and wrap up warm to save some cash.

Surprisingly, turning down the boiler’s thermostat by just one degree can save you up to £60 each year. And the funny thing is, you won’t notice any difference in the temperature of your home.

If your hot water is almost scolding, then the temperature is probably set too high. Take a look at the controls and ensure it’s no higher than 60 degrees. Speaking of the controls, ensure your heating is pre-set to come on at certain times of the day rather than have it running when you’re out and about.

4. Switch off your lights

Your home’s lighting can contribute to around 20% of your total energy bill, but fortunately there are some easy ways to make savings. Firstly, switch your standard light bulbs with energy saving replacements. They can help to reduce electricity bills by up to £55 annually and will also last 10 times as long. Using 80% less energy to light up your home, energy saving bulbs can save you £120 each over their lifetime.

Once you have more efficient lighting in place it’s time to eliminate all those bad habits of yours. Do you leave the lights on when you nip to the shops or overnight? Switch your lights off when not needed and you’ll save upwards of £10 annually.

To further reduce electricity bills, ensure that you stop leaving appliances on standby. This includes the washing machine, dishwasher and TV. The only exception to the rule should be your skybox; especially if you want to record a certain show overnight or when you’re out.

5. Shut your curtains

Whilst investing in energy efficient windows such as double glazing will help you reduce bills annually, you should also close all the curtains at night to keep even more heat inside.

Whether you have curtains or blinds, these can act as further insulation to keep your home warmer throughout the year and leave you not needing to up the thermostat. At night, closing the curtains and drawing blinds can block draughts in your home.

6. Become water efficient

Water usage will have an impact on your energy bills, so cutting back will help to save money every year. There are many appliances in your home where savings are achievable, particularly in the kitchen. First off, let’s start with the washing machine. You don’t always need to set a long duration at high temperatures. If your washing machine has the option, select a 30-degree temperature at a quick spin, particularly if the load’s not large.

You should also use the tumble dryer sparingly, especially in summer months when the sun’s out for most of the day. Hang your wet clothes out on the washing line and let them dry naturally. Just be ready to get them in if a menacing rain cloud looms overhead – you can never guarantee the weather in Britain!

If you have any dripping taps, it’s also worthwhile having these fixed as soon as possible. Every year a dripping tap is equal to 69 baths. Either tighten up the pipework yourself or call in a qualified plumber to give you a helping hand. You can also save up to £18 a year by switching your baths for showers. The average shower will use only 35 litres of water, whilst a bath takes 100 litres.

How to become water efficient:

  1. Choose a 30-degree spin for your washing machines
  2. Use the tumble drying sparingly in summer
  3. Have all your dripping taps fixed
  4. Take more showers than baths.

7. Regularly read the energy meter

Most energy companies calculate your bills as an estimation, rather than knowing for sure how much energy you’re really using. Especially when you first move into a property, suppliers will guess how much you’ll likely use over a 12-month period and average out the cost.

If you check your meter regularly and contact the supplier with updated readings, you’ll avoid paying more than necessary. If your energy account is ever in credit, ask to have the money paid into your bank account. Not many energy companies do this, so jog their memory with condition 27 of the Gas Supply Licence. This states any credit must be refunded.

With the Government’s plan to roll out smart energy meters to every home by 2020, energy companies will be automatically updated with your usage.

8. Cook your food efficiently

Every day you’ll be in the kitchen preparing food at some point, so it probably makes sense to start cooking efficiently to save a load of money. There are a few ways you can go about reducing energy use, whilst making the process of preparing food a lot quicker.

It may seem obvious but a lot of people don’t use the right size saucepan for the food on the hob. Not only will you be using more water than necessary, but it’ll also take longer for water to boil. If you have the lids to hand, use these to keep heat inside the saucepan and water will boil quicker still.

This same approach should be taken when filling up the kettle too – don’t use more water than you need to. If you’re making a cup of tea, it doesn’t make sense to boil a whole kettle full of water.

9. Clingfilm your windows

Probably not the first thing that’ll spring to mind when it comes to energy efficiency, but certainly a tip that can save you money. Double glazed windows are the obvious choice for those looking to save money with energy efficient windows. However, prices can be expensive and payback time up to 10 years.

As another option, there’s a superb product that’ll provide some energy efficiency at just a fraction of the cost. We’re not talking about the clingfilm you’ll buy at the local supermarket to wrap food with. Instead, visit your nearest DIY store and ask for double glazing film or stretch wrap. This can be applied to the windows in your home, providing further energy saving reductions. What’s more, it’ll cost under £10 for around six metres worth.

10. Use all the tips in this comprehensive guide

Really want to start saving money on a monthly basis? Then use this guide as your reference and locate the areas of your home that need upgrading to improve insulation and efficiency. There are a number of areas in your home where this is possible and as discussed, will include the windows, walls, loft, floor and boiler.

If you want to invest in insulation that’s not going to break the bank and will reward you almost immediately, cavity wall and loft insulation are perfect. With these in place you can instantly stop heat escaping your property and payback can be within just one year.

Replacing a boiler will be more expensive, but upgrading from an inefficient system to an A-rated equivalent will save you up to £310 on an annual basis. Not only this, but in the heart of winter there won’t be the risk of a breakdown that will disrupt your access to heating and hot water.