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Support the elderly and vulnerable during extreme weather – Archbishop

By Sarah Mac Donald - 28 February, 2018

Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh has urged people to look out for and support the elderly and vulnerable during the extreme weather conditions the country will experience over the coming days.

In a statement on Tuesday, Archbishop Martin appealed to all able people of goodwill to be alert, in person or by telephone, to the needs of vulnerable neighbours, old and young.

He urged them to check if they have enough food, fuel supplies and adequate clothing; to assist in clearing pathways to homes, and offer transport for essential journeys; to donate warm cloths to charity shops; to use, as appropriate, the online reporting system provided by the Peter McVerry Trust to support rough sleepers on our streets: www.homelessdublin.ie/report-rough-sleeper

Archbishop Martin also called for support for local farmers, recognising that it is lambing season and the death rate for all livestock increases sharply in extreme weather.

“The weather forecast for the coming days is expected to be exceptionally cold and to include a significant snowfall. This bad weather will affect and frighten many people across our country,” Dr Martin said.

He added that some will be afraid because they are alone, elderly, suffer from underlying medical conditions while others will be cold and hungry. “They may too proud to admit their vulnerability,” he warned.

The Archbishop encouraged the faithful to say the following prayer: 

Prayer for shelter from the storm
God of heaven and earth,
God who carries our lives
and the lives of our whole community
in your hands,
be with us.
Send us your holy angels
to watch over and guard us.
May they spread their holy wings
to give us shelter against the storm.
We ask this through Christ,
Our Lord.

Separately, Ireland’s leading advocacy organisation for older people, Age Action, has urged the Government to consider a double payment in the Fuel Allowance this week to help older people on low incomes stay warm during Storm Emma.

Highlighting that up to 2,000 excess winter deaths occur in Ireland every year, the organisation said the cold weather can be dangerous for older people, particularly those who might live alone.

Older people, Age Action warned, are at greater risk of cardiovascular and respiratory illness from cold and damp houses and tend to live in older, less energy efficient, homes.

“Many older people have trouble heating their homes at the best of times. They can be very nervous about keeping the heat on because they are afraid of rising energy bills,” Justin Moran, Head of Advocacy and Communications with Age Action, said.

He added that the best way to ensure older people aren’t afraid to keep the heat on during this cold weather is to announce a one-off, double-payment, of the Fuel Allowance.

“This would give them the assurance they need that keeping warm isn’t going to mean bills they cannot pay.”

In Britain a special Cold Weather Payment of £25 a week is made when temperatures drop below freezing for a number of days to help people on low incomes.

The organisation has advised older people on how to cope with the falling temperatures. This includes staying indoors, making sure their home is properly heated and wearing additional layers of clothing.

“If the weather gets worse, snow and ice will add to the problem and many may not be able to get out to buy food, fuel or to pick up prescriptions,” Justin Moran explained

“We would really urge family, friends and neighbours to check in on any older people they know living nearby, particularly those who may be living alone or have difficulty getting out and about.”

“Dropping in to say hello or a quick phone call to make sure everything is okay will always be welcome.”

In order to stay well and warm this winter older people should also take the following steps:

  • Dress warmly– wear layers, rather than one thick layer of clothing. Maybe wear a woollen or fleece hat in bed.
  • Remain active – don’t stay sitting for long periods. Spread your chores throughout the day to ensure to keep moving around your home.
  • Eat well – have at least one hot meal a day. Sip hot drinks regularly. Keep a flask of hot drink by the bed, in case you wake up cold.
  • Seal gaps around windows and doors.
  • Remain in contact with your family and friends, including other older people.

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