A charity is urging people to look in on their older neighbours as further stormy weather is forecast to hit the country.
Storm Barra is expected to bring heavy snow, gale force winds and icy drift on Tuesday which could cause further power cuts and disruption.
Age Scotland has also written to the Scottish Government asking for further assistance for elderly people amid rising fuel costs – and urged people to stay warm as temperatures dip.
It comes as Deputy First Minister John Swinney admitted the government and authorities must learn from the severe impact of Storm Arwen – which left thousands of homes without power for days.
Be cautious in the cold
Brian Sloan, chief executive of Age Scotland, said: “We’re urging older people to take extra care this week as more stormy weather threatens to sweep the country.
“We’re concerned that snow and icy conditions will put more people at risk of falls, while making it difficult for them to get out for essential shopping or medical appointments.
“We would encourage everyone to check on their older neighbours and relatives, and see if they need a little bit of extra help.
“A simple knock on the door and offer to pick up some shopping can make a big difference to someone, especially if they have mobility issues or are feeling isolated at home.
“We are also encouraging everyone to make sure they are heating their homes adequately and not putting their health at risk. We know the rising cost of fuel is a big worry for tens of thousands of households, especially pensioners on low incomes.
“But cold homes can have serious health consequences, putting people at greater risk of respiratory illnesses, heart attacks and strokes.”
The charity advises people set their heating at 21C and have plenty of hot food and drinks available. Ensure you wrap up warm when outside to reduce the risk of respiratory illness, heart attacks and strokes.
Asking for government support
Age Scotland has written to the first minister asking the government to consider giving a £50 one-off payment to help 130,000 pensioners with the rising cost of heating.
This support would assist those living in fuel poverty while relieving pressure on the NHS and the social care sector.
Mr Sloan added: “This would make a significant difference to those struggling with rising living costs, giving them the peace of mind to turn up their heating over the winter.
“This relatively modest investment would help prevent ill health and hospitalisations, at a time when Scotland’s health and social care services face incredible demand and unprecedented staff shortages.
“Not only could it help save lives this winter, but it could easily pay for itself in terms of reduced need for hospital stays and medical treatment.”
This proposal has been backed by Citizens Advice Scotland, Energy Action Scotland, the Scottish Older People’s Assembly, About Dementia, the Stroke Association and Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland.
‘Unprecedented in its severity’
Following a visit to Aberdeenshire last week, Mr Swinney has thanked everyone who was involved in the Storm Arwen recovery effort.
He today said: “Storm Arwen has been a more significant event than the Beast from the East in 2018, requiring a complexity of response that we have not seen for a number of years.
“It was almost unprecedented in its severity, and I want to express my sympathies to everybody who has been impacted.
“Throughout the course of the recovery effort, the Scottish Government resilience committee met on several occasions and there have been extensive discussions daily—several times a day—with the power companies.
“While engineers have been working round the clock to get everyone back on supply, we have supported local resilience partnerships to help provide advice and welfare support to those affected.”
The Scottish Government has committed to “evolve and strengthen” its severe weather response so it can be better prepared if another serious storm hits the country again.
“This has been a really difficult time, and there are lessons for all of us to learn,” Mr Swinney added.
“A key theme of these lessons will be around communication. Telecoms in particular have faced significant challenges due to Storm Arwen, and that is something we want to address for the future.
“We already have strong and robust arrangements in place to manage and address weather-related resilience issues at a national, regional and local level but I want to ensure that our arrangements continue to evolve and strengthen, in order to avoid severe impact from weather events such as we have seen over the past 10 days.
“I acknowledge that Ofgem will be carrying out a review into the impact of Storm Arwen the role of the network companies in maintaining the resilience of the system and their emergency response, including their communications with customers.
“I welcome the steps that are being taken to enhance the amount of compensation available to those people who have been affected.
“I would encourage all those who were off supply to ensure they are accessing all of the compensation to which they are entitled.”
Older people can contact the Age Scotland free helpline for benefit checks, support and advice on 0800 12 44 222.