OCEAN COUNTY – As we remain in the grips of harsh winter weather, Ocean County wants to make certain that its senior population, in particular the frail and homebound, is prepared for the extreme cold.
“While snowy weather and plunging temperatures have an effect on everyone, the elderly are often more susceptible to the dangers of winter,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who serves as Chairman of Senior Services. “We cannot stop the winter weather from coming. But we can be prepared for it.”
With about 170,000 seniors calling Ocean County home, Vicari urges any senior who is in need of assistance to contact the Ocean County Office of Senior Services at 732-929-2091 to determine what kind of help may be available.
For those seniors having trouble meeting their utility bills, Vicari urged seniors to contact the Office of Senior Services for information on the 2017/2018 Energy/Utility Discount Programs.
For example, Universal Service Fund is a federally funded program to assist low-income households with their heating bills. Eligibility is based on household size and monthly income. Applications will be automatically sent to those who received a heating benefit last year.
Lifeline is another program that offers assistance to persons who meet the PAAD eligibility requirements for 2017-2018. Lifeline benefits are provided for electricity and natural gas.
“These are just two of the many programs available that can help provide assistance in paying utility bills,” said Vicari, who serves as chairman of Senior Services.
If you are not a Home Energy Assistance/Universal Service Fund recipient and would like to apply, call the Office of Senior Services at 732-929-2091 or 1-800-668-4899. If you are already a recipient and have any questions, please contact O.C.E.A.N., Inc. at 732-244-9041.
Vicari urges residents to check in on their elderly neighbors, family members and friends.
He also noted that seniors participating in the County’s nutrition program are checked on daily when their meal is delivered. During inclement weather, additional meals are usually delivered before an impending storm so the senior will have food in the house should drivers be unable to get to them.
“For instance, we anticipate additional meals to be delivered this week as the weather forecast includes possible snow,” he said. “The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders with Community Services Inc., our nutrition program provider work diligently in making sure seniors are taken care of during all kinds of weather.”
Vicari cautioned seniors who venture out during harsh weather to be mindful of ice.
According to the National Institutes for Health, more than 1.6 million older Americans go to the emergency room each year for fall-related injuries. One of the major causes of a fall is ice and black ice which can occur without warning.
To lessen the chances of a fall, be cautious of footwear and make arrangements to have even a simple handrail installed to provide the necessary support to help maintain balance and keep you from falling.
As we age, our sense of touch also declines. Arthritis, diabetes, poor circulation, and a multitude of other conditions can cause lack of feeling for older adults, especially in the extremities. Some people may not be as aware of the change in temperature as they need to be.
To prevent hypothermia, keep your home’s thermostat set at 68 degrees or above, dress in layers of loose fitting clothing and keep your head covered when you are outdoors. A great deal of heat is lost when your head is exposed. As we age our skin becomes thinner and drier, thus more prone to tears. Certain medications can even affect the lining of your nose, creating an increased risk for nose bleeds. Keep the dangers of dryness low by using a humidifier to keep the air moist, drink plenty of water and eat foods high in water content like soups and vegetables, and moisturize your skin daily with creams or lotions.
“There are some simple steps we can take to keep us safe as we weather the cold,” Vicari said. “And there also is help available through the Office of Senior Services.”