I DON’T mind winter. I like big coats, foggy mornings and staying home in the warm.
For many Canberrans winter isn’t a big deal. Clear, cold afternoons with brilliant sunshine are pretty nice.
There are those annoying coughs and colds and there are days when the house looks like a laundromat as every heating vent is aimed at a clothes rack trying to dry out the washing.
Still, we wake up in heated homes, get into heated cars, go to heated workplaces and repeat that on the way home. On many winter’s days I might spend less than 10 minutes out in the cold.
However, for those on a pension, on a low wage, for single-parent families, those suffering illness or disability and many of the elderly and frail winter in Canberra is cold, bleak and harsh.
Many of these people are stuck in their homes most days. Heaters may be only turned on very sparingly or not at all as energy costs are high, as indeed are rents and mortgages in Canberra.
My daughter was recently distressed to hear that a friend was unable to have hot showers because the family had turned the gas off as the heating bills were too expensive.
Many older Canberra homes are inadequately equipped for winter with poor insulation. Many older people particularly feel the cold and suffer in silence. One colleague recently told me she had found her elderly mother had covered all the windows in the house with blankets, shut off most of the rooms and retreated to the kitchen area in an effort to keep warm without resorting to the expense of using the heating system.
We all see the homeless members of our community living rough huddled in blankets and, if they are lucky, sleeping bags in alcoves in Civic and other places. For them, the winter must be truly horrible.
It is worth considering the next time you do a cupboard clean out if you really need that old coat you haven’t worn in a decade or whether those old sleeping bags are ever going to see the light of day again. Please donate them to local charities, not things you can’t be bothered taking to the tip, but things that might really make a difference, you may help someone out and, who knows, even save a life.
Keep an eye out for the elderly in your street. If their blinds don’t go up as normal and rubbish bins are not going out, maybe politely knock on the door to say hello and check that they are okay. It will only take a minute.
If you are anyone like me, you probably have much less change in your pocket than you once did as we become increasingly a cashless society. I wonder how much this is affecting the wonderful organisations such as the Salvation Army, which provides help to people in winter. Maybe keep a little jar of coins to hand over every now and again.
If we can keep in mind that winter is harsher on some than others and do something that makes a difference, we’ll help those members of our community who really do feel the winter cold.