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Keeping seniors warm and safe

November 18, 2005

Should you buy medicine or spend the money on fuel so you can be warm this winter? If you're a senior citizen, you know that giving up either one could be hazardous to your health.

So what should you do? If you live in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle, you might want to attend The Warming Hands and Hearts Summit.

Organized with the help of state Sen. John Unger, it will be held this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church, 220 W. Martin St. in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Those who attend will be able to file applications for financial assistance for fuel, learn about the dangers of living in a house that is too cold and how to obtain help in winterizing a home.


Unger noted that the price of fuel oil and natural gas has already risen and that electricity is expected to rise by as much as 40 percent, due in part to possible increases in the price of coal.

But even if you can't attend the conference, there are a number of things you can do, perhaps with the help of a friend or relative, to make sure you use less energy.

The Christian Science Monitor recommends the following:

Replace your furnace air filter to make your system more efficient.

Use caulk, weather stripping other sealants to close cracks, especially around window frames where heat can escape. Insulate your water heater as well.

However, make sure your home is not so airtight that the air quality suffers.

If you attic isn't insulated, do so. If it's lightly insulated, add more.

Install a programmable thermostat. It is a myth, the paper says, that keeping a home at a constant temperature saves more fuel than turning it down at night.

Keep south-facing windows clean and open drapes during the day to allow in solar heat.

If you're looking at replacing a heating system, look at the Energy Tax Incentive Act. It takes effect in January and provides tax credits to those who purchase certain energy-efficient appliances.

Finally, if you have elderly friends or relatives, check on them regularly, especially when the temperature dips way down.

One of the symptoms of hypothermia, which can cause a deadly drop in body temperature, is confusion. Some who suffers from it might not know they're in danger until it's too late.

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