Stay healthy this winter

Monty Meth, president of Enfield Over 50s Forum, invites older people to seek advice on staying warm and well

Shock figures of 50,000 excess deaths of older people from cold-related illnesses last winter – the worst for 42 years – are not expected to be repeated this year.

Elderly woman keeps warm
Winter is a worrying time for elderly people who often struggle to pay high energy bills (credit National Energy Action)

The early indications are that the special flu vaccine for people aged 65 and over launched this winter is proving to be the most effective for many years, and the weather so far has been much less severe.

Latest figures show that by early December, 61.2% of Enfield’s over-65s had received this winter’s flu jab. Professor Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, says that “initial data suggests this year’s vaccine is a match for the flu strains that are going around”.

Hopefully, that’s the good news. The bad news is that among older people in Enfield there have been excess winter deaths – meaning deaths between December and March over the normal monthly average – of between 100 and 220 in the five years ending March 2016.

More bad news is that in 2016 there were 14,131 Enfield families living in fuel-poor homes, meaning that their income after meeting energy bills placed them in the official poverty level. That’s 11.3% of Enfield households with incomes too low to both heat and eat, and is the highest for the last five years.

A toxic cocktail of poor housing, high energy costs, inefficient boilers, and poor home insulation, coupled with long-term health problems such as breathing difficulties, asthma and bronchitis, makes winter the most dangerous time for older people.

This is why the Enfield Over 50s Forum is holding its sixth annual Winter Fair at Enfield County School, Holly Walk, in Enfield Town this month. Starting at 9.30am on Friday 22nd February, the fair will be highlighting the “keep warm and well this winter” message. Admission is free – the event is funded by Enfield NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) – and will include workshops and informative stalls on health matters, yoga, folk and circle dancing, live jazz music, and an Asian dance troupe.

Guest speakers include John Wardell, Enfield CCG’s chief operating officer; Natalie Forrest, chief executive of Chase Farm Hospital; and Tom Welfare from National Energy Action, the charity combating fuel poverty.

For more information about Enfield Over 50s Forum:
Visit enfieldover50sforum.org.uk

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