Winter Weather Safety for Seniors

Depending on where you live, winter can be the toughest of the four seasons to get through. Especially for seniors.

There are more challenges involved with winter than with any of the other seasons. From falls on ice and hypothermia when you’re outdoors, to power outages and even depression while inside, the cold weather presents a variety of problems.

But knowing what those problems are in advance and preparing for them can make all the difference in the world.

We still have about six more weeks of winter – despite what Punxsutawney Phil predicted recently – so there’s time to get ready for the pitfalls.

Let’s take a quick look at five of the most likely hazards seniors will have to deal with until spring rolls around.

Falls on ice

Indoors or outdoors, falls can be debilitating and even life-threatening for seniors. They often result in hip and wrist fractures, and even head trauma.

And once you’re in your 50s and beyond, complications and slow recovery times are common with falls. Ice on sidewalks compounds this problem significantly.

Stay inside when it’s icy outside as much as possible. If you do have to venture outdoors, make sure you’ve put salt down on your sidewalks. Wear shoes or boots with good traction. Remove them when you’re back inside because you might track ice in.

Hypothermia

It’s amazing how quickly frostbite and hypothermia can come on. Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that more than one-half of hypothermia-related deaths involve people over age 65.

Wear layers both inside and out. Keep your indoor temperature at 68 degrees or so. When you do have to go outside in the cold, make sure you cover all your exposed skin.

That means a warm coat and gloves, a hat that covers your ears and a scarf that covers your nose and mouth, which will protect your lungs from cold air. Sunglasses are a must to avoid snow blindness. When back inside, keep your skin from drying out with a moisturizer and by drinking plenty of fluids.

Power outages

Cold, snow and ice can wreak havoc with power poles and electrical grids. The key is to be ready for a blackout so you’re not scrambling when it happens.

A back-up power supply, such as a solar-powered generator, can bring you peace of mind. Regardless, keep a flashlight and batteries in a place where you can find them quickly in the dark.

In another location you can access quickly, stockpile items such as blankets, non-perishable food, plenty of drinking water, a first-aid kit and a battery-powered radio. Keep your electronic devices fully charged so they’ll last as long as possible during an outage.

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Gas heaters, lanterns and even fireplaces can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning in the winter.

You will probably spend a lot more time indoors than out until spring, so make sure you have a functioning carbon monoxide detector or two to alert you to danger. If you have to, get a new one.

Get help installing it, if necessary. And speaking of help, don’t hesitate to ask family members or younger friends to assist you in a variety of winter tasks, including rides to stores, appointments and snow removal.

Depression

It’s well known that darkness can increase one’s depression, and there are more darker hours during the winter than any other time of year.

Making this problem worse is that we spend less time with friends in the winter due to staying in our homes more. Take advantage of the nicer winter days by getting out and getting connected.

When you need to stay inside for safety, make phone calls to friends and have video chats with them. And have plenty of books and magazines handy to help you pass the time before the weather warms up again.

Spring is not too far away. In the meantime, let’s stay as safe as possible so that we can enjoy the warmer temperatures to come.

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