- Stay warm. Older adults can lose body heat faster and be less aware of being cold due to the changes in their bodies. Hypothermia can occur if your body temperature gets too low, 95° or lower. It can cause health problems like heart attacks, kidney problems, liver damage, or worse. And, you don’t have to be outside to get hypothermia. To stay safe, stay warm. Don’t go outside for long periods of time. Keep the indoor temperature to at least 65-70°. Dress warmly, even if you are staying inside, including while sleeping. Watch alcohol intake as it can make you lose body heat.
- Tred carefully. Icy roads and sidewalks can make walking a short distance dangerous for everyone. But for seniors, a slip and fall can cause major injuries, including fractures and head trauma. Recovery can be tough and such injuries are a leading cause of death in men and women over the age of 65. Take care, walk carefully, and take precautions. Wear shoes with good traction and non-skid soles. You may want to postpone your outdoor activity until sidewalks and roads have been cleared of ice or snow accumulation. If you use a cane, check to make sure the tip is not worn down, or consider an ice pick-like attachment. And, after going outdoors, take off your shoes when inside; otherwise, the indoors may become dangerously slippery as the snow and ice melts.
- Be prepared. The little things can make a big difference for safety and comfort in the winter. Power outages, snowy conditions, and low temperatures can easily turn into life-threatening situations. Take time now to be safe later. Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen while using a fireplace, gas heater, or lantern. Make sure a working carbon monoxide monitor (with new batteries) is installed to you from this silent killer. Prepare the car for winter driving by checking the antifreeze, tires, and windshield wipers for readiness. Pack emergency supplies including extra blankets and keep a cell phone handy when traveling. Winter storms often lead to power outages, so ensure easy access to flashlights and a battery-powered radio. Additional warm blankets and non-perishable foods are also helpful. Have a plan for where you could go if the power was out for several days.
- Stay engaged. The winter months can make it harder to socialize and loneliness or depression can set in. To fight the winter blues, connect with others. Set up regular calls or video chats with loved ones; you can use this time to catch up on each other’s activities or simply to say that everything is okay. Check-in with neighbors, taking turns hosting for afternoon visits; play board games, watch a movie, or share recipes. Don’t forget about the power of food to help boost your mood; eat a varied diet. Because a vitamin D deficiency is linked with cognitive decline and depression, registered dietician and cookbook author Nicole Morrissey suggests consuming milk, grains and seafood such as tuna and salmon because they are fortified with vitamin D.
With proper preparation, you’ll be able to enjoy the unique delights of winter while staying safe and warm.