Cold temperatures and icy conditions are a constant battle for most regions of the U.S. in the wintertime, and it’s especially important for seniors to take precautions during these chillier months. Here are 8 safety tips for seniors to be mindful of this season.
1) Clear the Sidewalks
Slip and falls are one of the major concerns for seniors, and for good reason. It’s bad enough when someone has perfect balance and stability. When this is compromised in any way, such as shaky limbs, it’s a danger that can result in broken bones, head trauma, and other serious injuries.
Avoid being outside as much as possible when ice and sleet hit the ground. Employ the help of a neighbor or family member to salt and clear the sidewalks, if it’s necessary to leave the house. Then, make sure you’re wearing shoes with good tread and walk slowly with care.
2) Bundle Up
If staying inside simply isn’t an option, make sure you’re bundled up in plenty of warm layers to keep out the cold, since you’re more susceptible to suffering from frigid conditions. When your body temp dips too low, hypothermia can set in. This happens faster in older adults and can be life-threatening if not treated right away.
Wear thick socks, long sleeves, a heavy coat, and don’t forget about winter accessories, including a scarf, hat, and mittens or gloves. Cold weather can be damaging to the skin, not to mention your lungs, if you are inhaling cold air. Even indoors, put on an extra sweater, slip into comfy slippers, or snuggle up under a blanket to keep your body warm.
3) Pack a Power Outage Kit
When ice storms hit, it can wreak havoc on power lines as frozen branches break off. When this happens, it can mean hours without light or warmth within the house. It’s better to be prepared for the worst-case scenario ahead of time by packing a small kit of necessities.
Include flashlights and extra batteries, and keep plenty of blankets nearby. When the power goes out, layer up right away and take advantage of a fireplace if you have it. Neighbors and family members should check on their neighbors to ensure they have what they need or take them to somewhere warmer until the power returns. You never realize how dependent on electricity you are until you’re without it.
4) Keep Plenty of Non-Perishable Food
During severe winter storms, it may be several hours or even days before you have power again. This means all refrigerated and frozen food runs the risk of going bad. In cases of an emergency such as this, make sure there are plenty of non-perishable items in the pantry, such as dry cereal and canned vegetables.
In these scenarios, it’s usually too dangerous to drive, which means you must make do with what you have on hand. Stock up on a few select items, which you can eat without having to refrigerate, microwave, or cook in an electrical oven.
5) Eat a Balanced Diet
This safety tip shouldn’t be reserved for winter only, but followed year-round to help maintain proper health and nutrition. However, lack of sunlight means a decrease in vitamin D, which can lead to additional health problems. Vitamin D found in milk, grains, and certain fish help strengthen bones and make them less vulnerable to fractures.
You should also be mindful of staying hydrated. If you don’t favor water’s lack of flavor, adding fresh fruit slices or a sprig of mint can add the zing necessary to drink several glasses throughout the day.
6) Get Active
Snow, sleet, and harsh winds might drive people indoors, but it doesn’t have to mean mindless days of watching daytime television. It’s easy to enter a depressive state with shorter days that don’t offer much sunlight, which makes it even more important to stay active.
Indoor yoga, exercise routines, and other activities to exercise the mind can help you battle seasonal depression. No one wants to be cooped up for days on end, so keep in communication with friends and family, and schedule regular phone calls or visits so you don’t feel isolated.
7) Take the Car for a Tune-Up
Well before the first storm hits, make sure your car is ready to rev its engine when the cold settles in. Don’t delay getting new tires or brakes; these vehicle parts should be replaced prior to inclement weather to help prevent accidents.
Keep emergency contact information on hand in the car, as well as information for roadside assistance, in case it’s needed when on the road. But when in doubt, don’t drive. Reschedule appointments rather than run the risk of venturing into dangerous weather.
8) Enjoy the Slow Down
Reserve outdoor activities and day trip adventures for sunnier days. When winter rears its ugly head, there’s no need to feel compelled to brave the cold. One of the best safety tips for seniors is to simply enjoy the quiet moments that often accompany winter and stay warm inside.
If you are going to be outdoors, plan accordingly and leave plenty of time to get to where you need to go. Even post-storm, the roads and sidewalks may still be slippery and have uneven sections or patches of black ice. Tread carefully whether you’re in the car or on foot.
Don’t Let Winter Weather Get You Down
Cold days can lead to warm wishes for time spent at the park or a road trip to somewhere new. But just when you feel the winter weather is driving you crazy or you’re more than ready to head outdoors, spring will arrive. Start counting down the days to spotting the first flower blooms and watch as the ice and snow slowly disappear for good.