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December 4, 2007

Department on Aging Director provides seniors with tips to stay safe and warm this winter
Seniors can find more information on how to keep warm by calling Keep Warm Illinois at 1-877-411-WARM or by visiting www.keepwarm.illinois.gov

SPRINGFIELD – As part of  Governor Rod R. Blagojevich’s Keep Warm Illinois campaign, Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) Director Charles D. Johnson is encouraging seniors to take steps that will keep them safe, healthy and warm during the winter months. 

“Older persons are at a higher risk to falling ill during the cold winter months.  We want to make sure that seniors know how to keep themselves safe and healthy this winter season,” IDoA Director Charles D. Johnson said. “The state has a number of resources available that seniors can use so they aren’t left to make difficult decisions about paying their heating bills or taking their prescription drugs this winter.  I hope that older persons, their families and those who care for them will take these practical, simple steps to prepare for the cold weather ahead.”

People who lower the thermostat to reduce heating bills risk developing hypothermia, a potentially fatal condition in which the body temperature drops dangerously low. At increased risk are older people who take certain medications, drink alcohol, lack proper nutrition and who have conditions such as arthritis, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

“Seniors should make sure they set their thermostats to above 65 degrees.  This year is going to be particularly tough on seniors on fixed incomes because of the rising cost of the price of gas and electricity to heat homes, but I urge them not to turn the heat down any lower than 65 degrees – it is too dangerous for seniors,” Director Johnson said.  “Their health and well-being should come before anything else.”

Before winter officially arrives, Director Johnson recommends that seniors get their furnace checked to ensure that it is in good working order and heating ducts are properly ventilated. Having heating equipment checked each season by a qualified technician to make sure it is operating properly can make a great impact on how much extra money is spent on utility bills. 

Other cold-weather tips from Director Johnson and the Department on Aging include:

• Dress in layers and cover as much skin as possible while outdoors. A hat is important since so much body heat escapes from an uncovered head.
• Keep active. Make a list of exercises and activities that you can do indoors when you cannot get out.
• Eat well and drink 10 glasses of water every day.
• Keep extra medications in the house. If this is not possible, make arrangements now with a pharmacy that will deliver.
• Stock up on extra non-perishable food supplies, just in case.
• Have your house winterized. Be sure that walls and attics are insulated. Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows. Insulate pipes near outer walls, in crawl spaces and attics that are susceptible to freezing.
• Be informed.  Contact your local Emergency Services Disaster Agency / Emergency Management Agency and ask about their response and evacuation plans.  Let them know if you have any special needs (i.e. oxygen, home dialysis, etc.).
• Make sure you and your family knows how to shut off the water supply in case pipes burst.
• Prepare your vehicle for winter: Check wipers, tires, lights and fluid levels regularly. Keep a windshield scraper and small broom for ice and snow removal. Maintain at least a half tank of gas during the winter season. Plan long trips carefully and travel by daylight with at least one other person.
• Protect against fire. If you don’t have a fire extinguisher, buy one. Make sure space heaters are at least three feet from anything flammable. Do not overload extension cords.
• If you live in a house, plan now for someone else to shovel the snow when it comes. Do not shovel snow or walk in deep snow. The strain from the cold and hard labor could cause a heart attack; sweating can lead to a chill and even hypothermia.

Additional information can also be found by visiting www.keepwarm.illinois.gov or by calling the Keep Warm Illinois, 1-877-411-WARM.  Older adults and their caregivers may also contact the Department on Aging Senior HelpLine at 1-800-252-8966 to learn more about the programs and services available in their areas. 


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