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Winter Safety Tips for Seniors

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Baby, it’s (getting) cold outside! Living in New England brings about the diversity of experiencing all four seasons – the good, the unexpected, and everything in between. From those hot July days to the colorful changing leaves in October, and eventually the icy, cold winter weather that strikes at the end of the year. Preparing for this change in seasons is important for everyone, but especially for older adults who may be more susceptible to its adverse effects. In this blog, we’ll outline the safety specifics to consider for seniors as the seasons change to help your loved one best prepare.

Cold Sensitivity and Aging 

Remember how as a child you could stay out playing in the snow for hours? Well unfortunately for many seniors, that is no longer the case. People find it harder to deal with the cold as they age, potentially having to do with prescription medications, slow metabolic responses or an underlying medical condition. The increase in sensitivity to cold temperatures typically starts in the hands and feet and is more concerning for those whose medical condition worsens in the winter compared to warmer months.

Seniors entering the cold weather have an increased chance of getting hypothermia or frostbite. Hypothermia occurs when a body’s temperature drops below a dangerous level, as the body begins to lose heat quicker when outside in the cold. Warning signs include pale or ashy cold skin, tiredness, confusion, weakness, problems walking or slow breathing or heart rate. Frostbite occurs when the skin experiences damage, potentially to the bone, caused by extreme cold. This can occur often in body parts furthest from the heart, like nose, ears, fingers and toes, and adults with heart disease or other circulation problems are at an even higher risk of frostbite.

Winter Health Risks 

Winter weather often brings additional senior health concerns, including lack of exercise, seasonal illnesses, and feelings of isolation or depression. It is important to ensure the wellness of your senior loved one at all times, but especially during the winter when their safety and health is compromised the greatest. Thoughts of depression can increase during the winter due to isolation and less sunlight, potentially alluding to seasonal affective disorder. Creating a purposeful schedule of their time during these shorter days to include beneficial and rewarding activities, social interaction, and physical fitness programs as frequently as possible is essential to combat this.

Everyone, most importantly seniors and those around them, should consistently wash their hands and be cautious of germs and sicknesses, especially during the winter months to reduce risk of illnesses like the flu or common cold and Covid-19.

Cold Weather Safety Precautions for Seniors 

To help you prepare for the cold months ahead, we have compiled a list of some precautions to help your seniors stay safe during this time and still enjoy the beauty of winter that New England offers: 

  • Do not stay outside for very long and keep indoor temperatures at a minimum of 68 degrees. 
  • Keep clothes dry at all times and dress warm for the winter (and even inside) and layer up with your winter accessories when heading out the door – hats, gloves, coats, boots, scarves, etc.! 
  • See if a family or neighbor can help clear steps and walkways of snow and salt iced-over pavements before walking. If a senior needs to do it themselves, double up by wearing waterproof winter boots with traction cleat attachments to help prevent slipping. Taking extra steps to prevent falls can mean replacing or adding a rubber tip to your cane or walker for better traction. 
  • Place smoke detectors and battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors in strategic places and ensure space heaters are at least 3 feet away from anything that is flammable (and turning them off at night when possible). 
  • “Winterize” your car before the bad weather hits, which includes having an emergency supply kit on hand and checking/changing your antifreeze, tires, and windshield wipers if necessary. 
  • Be careful (or avoid) driving on icy roads by considering alternate routes. This includes bridges or overpasses and recommend trying to drive on main streets versus backroads for plowing purposes. 
  • Ensure seniors are stocked with non-perishable food items and survival kits especially prior to a storm, as well as all prescribed medication dosages, in case of power outages or emergencies to stay healthy, warm and nourished.

Preparing for the winter could also look like considering moving to a safe living community that has exceptional support for all daily tasks and needs. Make a move before the snow does and make Wentworth Senior Living (WSL) your home! With a highly personalized approach to care, WSL adapts to the specific needs of every resident in care to continue living fulfilled, dignified lives. Additionally, WSL provides meals and transportation to all residents, as well as medicine distribution as needed. WSL is always offering a list of enriching activities for residents to participate in, allowing them to create captivating and entertaining experiences for their senior days. Learn more about the exceptional care and enriching environment offered at Wentworth Senior Living for seniors of all needs and abilities.