Health & wellbeing

Keeping warm in the winter is a challenge; we
share some tips and meet a group of knitters who talk about all things woolly.

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February 2022

In the winter months, it’s important not to get too cold. As we get older, the cold can affect us more. Being cold can certainly affect our health. It’s not always easy to keep warm, especially If you live on your own in a big, old, draughty house. In recent months, energy prices have sky-rocketed and it’s a worry for some that they won’t be able to afford to be warm.

The act of knitting is beneficial too – physically and mentally. It’s quite calming
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Home Plus is a project from Care & Repair. Below you can read about how the project can support older people to have a warm home. If you’re concerned about the age of your boiler, or think the heat might be escaping through ramshackle windows, they might be able to help. The aim is to keep you warm and well – and in your own home, not in hospital or a care home.
 
Knit and Natter

One way to keep warm is to keep active. Knitting keeps your hands active – and you can end up making a woolly hat to wear on cold nights! As you might be aware, there are many “knit and natter” groups across the city. We went to visit one such group in Moor Allerton to find out why people knit and how they started. Hopefully the members’ enthusiasm might inspire you to get out of your cold house and find a knit and natter group in your area – or at the very least give knitting a try.
 
Knitting and Nattering in Moor Allerton For the knitters at Moor Allerton Elderly Care (MAE Care), it’s important to get out of the house and meet other like-minded people. On a cold day it’s good to get moving and come to MAECare’s warm, cosy centre in a shop unit in LS17. “It’s about company,” says group member Louise Iduas. Another member, Ann Pearce, agrees: “We could sit and knit at home. But it’s different here. You come out, you meet people you know and you can chat and catch up on things.” The group has been going for several years but nobody is quite sure when it started. “It’s been going forever!” says Louise. Ann Pearce recalls how she got involved: “A friend told me about the group about 20 years ago. I was a volunteer driver for MAECare. I delivered incontinence pads and drove people to appointments. I joined lots of groups back then. I go back a long way!”
 
Starting early
 
Other members joined more recently. Elaine moved up to Leeds from London 5 years ago. “I hadn’t done
knitting for years,” she says. Elaine started going to a keep-fit class at a local church. “For the centenary of the end of the first world war in 2018, members of the congregation decided they’d knit poppies. They did a wall of poppies in the church. I picked up knitting again from that – and I haven’t stopped since.” Elaine learned to knit when she was a child. “My mum taught me when I was 7 or 8. Around 60 years ago now.”
 
For Ann Pearce, knitting has been a lifetime pursuit. “I’ve knitted since I was 4,” she says. “My grandmother
taught me. That was over 80 years ago.” Ann’s first knitting project was an ambitious one – and her grandmother was on hand to help her. “After she had taught me the basics, I did a little toy rabbit. I was so
proud of it.” Ann believes that traditional crafts should be passed on through the generations. “I think knitting is a craft that is in danger of dying out,” she says. “We need to teach our children and grandchildren.”
 
It’s not just knitting either; the group do other crafts. Ann Pearce does crochet and makes lace. Ann James,
another member, likes a diverse range of crafts. “I love patchwork and quilting, she says. “I’ve made coverlets for single beds.” Ann James likes knitting but prefers to crochet. “I’m making a knee-blanket for when I’m old,” she says. Louise is a crochet-lover too and made a suit as her first project. She is a regular at the group, even though most weeks, she doesn’t actually knit. “I’m the natterer,” Louise laughs. “You’ve got to have one in the group. I can knit and do cross stich and crochet. But I don’t! I’m having a sabbatical!”
 
Since returning to sessions in the Autumn, the groups have been meeting but making sure they are socially
distant. “We’ve had to reduce numbers,” says Mary Baillie, who works for MAECare. “And we meet fortnightly so everyone gets a chance to come.” It’s clear that meeting face-to-face is really important to the group. “You’re interested in what other people are doing,” says Ann Pearce. “It gives you ideas and you get home and it gives you some energy to finish something off”
 
The act of knitting is beneficial too – physically and mentally. “It’s quite calming,” says Ann Pearce. It keeps your fingers active too – you lose most of your heat through your extremities, so knitting in the evenings can stop you getting too cold. Some of the members watch TV and knit. “I go for uncomplicated patterns,” says Elaine. “And I can’t watch anything with subtitles.” There are unexpected benefits too. “For me, at home in the evenings, it stops me snacking,” Elaine admits. “Craft brings you a lot of pleasure,” says Ann Pearce. “It gives other people pleasure as well because they get presents!”
 
Though many of the group learned to knit at a young age, it’s never too late to start (or restart). Ann Pearce
thinks it’s quite easy to learn: “With knitting there’s only 2 fundamental stitches: you’ve got to learn to
knit and you’ve got to learn to purl. Gradually, you learn to do more.” Louise agrees. “There’s always someone, somewhere to help you get started,” she says. “Once you get started, that’s it, there’s no stopping you. Mind you, I started a cross stitch for my grandson when he was 5. He’s 23 now.”

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Care & Repair is a great organisation that supports older people in Leeds to keep warm and well. Their Home Plus service helps people stay in their own homes by providing servicing, repairs, equipment, information, and other support.

Brrr!
If you live in a cold home, it can have an impact on your health. There are lots of physical problems that might occur, such as pneumoniaand respiratory illness. As you get older the cold weather can put you at increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. Low temperatures can worsen existing health conditions or make it difficult to recover from injuries and illnesses. Being cold can affect your mental health too. A pretty gloomy picture! But there is something you can do about it.


Top Tips
Not everyone is eligible for support with Home Plus – and you might have to wait to get things done in your home. In the meantime, you could try these free ideas to keep warm in the winter.
 
- Keep your hands and feet warm. You lose most heat through your extremities. Wear gloves, thick socks and a hat. Knit them yourself if you can!
 
- Keep the house heated to a stable, comfortable temperature.
 
- Keep moving – try not to sit still for more than an hour. Go for a walk around the room whilst watching TV!
 
- Draw the curtains at night. Tuck long curtains behind radiators to ensure heat doesn’t get trapped.
 
- Wear thermals in bed or get a hot water bottle.
 
- Wrap up in a blanket or throw when sitting down.

Support
Care and Repair helps older and disabled people live in warm, safe and secure environments. The aim is to improve people’s living conditions, keep people healthy and prevent them having to go to hospital or move out of their own homes. The Home Plus service is available to people who are over 65 or have a disability or a long-term health condition – and who have a household income of under £21000 and savings less than £16,000. There is also specific support for people at risk of falls or who have particular health conditions. Once you contact Home Plus, they may talk to you on the phone for an initial assessment, then follow this up with a home
visit.
 
Some support will be repairs or adaptations in the home. The team might also help you with finding the best energy tariff or working out the best way to pay your bills.
 
A warm home
There are practical things you can do to make sure you’re keeping your home as warm as possible. These include:
 
- Energy saving lightbulbs
 
- Draught-proofing windows and doors
 
- Reflective radiator panels
 
It’s a good idea to make sure your boiler and other heating appliances are serviced and repaired. However, all this might cost money. You might be eligible for help through Home Plus  at Care & Repair.

Contact
Call Home Plus at Care & Repair on 0113 240 6009
Email: homeplus@care-repair-leeds.org.uk

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