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Winter Safety Tips for Seniors

Ah, winter. Some love the crisp air and snowy landscapes. Others, not so much. Either way, here in Kansas, winter weather is just part of life. It comes in and stays awhile, which can present some very real dangers. Especially for seniors—who tend to more susceptible to the cold.

Let’s look at some helpful safety tips. You might already know them all. But, right now, in the middle of winter, it can’t hurt to refresh your skills.

Outdoor Safety: Be careful and bundle up

The human metabolism slows over time. This makes it harder to stay warm as we get older, because we create less natural body heat. Think about it. How many times have you been bundled up while your grandkids ran around with their coats unzipped?

Dress for the weather

It’s much easier for older adults to catch a chill. It seems obvious, but we need to dress for the cold every time we go out in the winter months. Even for a quick errand. You don’t want to get stuck somewhere without weather-resistant outerwear. Be sure to dress in layers and wear (or bring) a hat, scarf and gloves or mittens, too.

Of course, we all know somebody who doesn’t like to wear “all those clothes” because they feel bulky and restricted in their movements. Fortunately, new high-tech fabrics and materials have created lighter weight clothing options that perform especially well in the cold.

Proceed with caution

It is important to move slowly and cautiously in the snow and ice as we get older. It doesn’t take much to get off balance and wobble a bit. Particularly on stairs and other elevated surfaces.

Preventing falls is a big part of winter weather safety for seniors. In addition to taking your time and being aware of where you’re walking, be sure to wear sensible boots or shoes with good tread.  

Steer away from uncleared walkways and poorly lit areas. Don’t grab onto an icy railing. Try not to take shortcuts through any snowbanks. Go the long way around if it seems safer.

Hypothermia

Older adults are more susceptible hypothermia, which is considered to be a body temperature of 95 degrees or lower. You can blame our aforementioned slower metabolism, which can be further compromised by certain illnesses and/or medications.

The National Institute on Aging shares hypothermia cautions for seniors with thyroid disease, diabetes, arthritis and Parkinson’s disease. Each of these conditions impacts the body in ways that make it harder to stay warm. People with memory loss can also misjudge the cold and its dangers. 

Hypothermia can cause lasting liver and kidney problems, as well as a heart attack. It can also create mental confusion to the extent that a person becomes unaware of their body or surroundings. Staying warm both outdoors—and indoors—is the only prevention for hypothermia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a list of warning signs that require emergency medical attention, along with immediate actions that should be taken if you suspect hypothermia.

 

Indoor Safety: Keep warm with proper preparation 

Staying indoors in the winter can be the safest activity of all, as long as you (and your home) are prepared to keep the harsh weather at bay.  

Adequate heat

Making sure that you have good heat is job #1 for winter. Make room in your annual budget for higher fuel and electricity costs for several months. You want to be warm and comfortable. Keeping the heat down too low can be dangerous. People have been known to get hypothermia inside of insufficiently heated homes and buildings.

If you still cringe at the idea of raising the temperature on the thermostat, stock up on blankets and heavy sweaters when they go on sale after the season. The same goes for long underwear, socks and fuzzy slippers. Conserving energy is a positive action. Just not to the detriment of your health.   

Additional considerations

Having working smoke and CO2 detectors is equally important. Especially if you use alternate forms of heat like a space heater or fireplace. The CDC also recommends winterizing your home with proper insulation, weather stripping and more.

Here at Salina Presbyterian Manor, we provide a safe and cozy atmosphere without any of that work or worry. It’s one of the many advantages of choosing a senior living community like ours. Winter chores are our problem, not yours.

We’re also prepared for weather emergencies with backup generators, extra supplies and a dedicated team that is here to serve our residents’ needs. We are at the ready from the first snowflake to the last!

Vehicle Safety: Going out and going slow

AAA offers several tips for safe winter driving. The first being “Stay Home.” But, yes, that can be hard to do over the course of along and unpredictable winter.

In the driver’s seat

If you must drive in the snow, just remember to go slow and don’t stop unless you have to. Trouble starts when you go too fast or brake too hard. That’s how you skid, spin and end up off the road. AAA strongly warns against using cruise control on slick surfaces too. Keep both hands firmly on the wheel, with good judgement as your co-pilot. It’s okay to turn around and go back home if the conditions are worse than expected.  

In the trunk

AAA also advises drivers to be well equipped with cold weather emergency gear. Think ice scraper, snow brush, shovel, and sand or cat litter. It’s smart to keep a stash of non-perishable food(energy bars, etc.), water, extra clothes, blankets and medications in your car. That’s in addition to the safety equipment you should already be already carrying such as a flashlight, emergency flares, reflective triangles, jumper cables and basic toolkit.

There’s a more lot to winter safety than it first appears. Bookmark this article for reference and share it with your friends. You can also find more information about “Cold Weather Safety for Older Adults” by visiting the National Institute of Aging at this link.

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