Winter Safety for Seniors

White senior couple takes a selfie inside in front of a window with a wintry outdoors

Winter solstice is finally past, which means days will grow longer, chasing the darkness away. But the solstice also brought us winter, and reports predict ongoing arctic blasts and life-threatening cold conditions. Cold weather is especially dangerous for older adults, who are more vulnerable to hypothermia, frostbite, and falls due to snow and ice.

Here are some tips to keep you and your loved ones safe until spring warms up the air again.

Stay inside. Staying inside is one of the best ways to avoid getting cold, as long as inside is kept sufficiently warm. Hypothermia, when a person’s body temperature gets too love, can happen indoors as well as outside. Make sure the heat stays between 68 and70 degrees; to save on the heating bill, close off rooms not in use. A rolled towel in front of doors will keep out drafts. Keeping the curtains closed will also help insulate and warm the home.

Bundle up. You know you need to dress warmly to go outside, but on cold days you may need to dress that way even if you stay in Two or three loose layers provide more protection than one thick sweater. Use a blanket on the lap and don’t forget socks and slippers. When you sleep, make sure you are covered and comfortable; thermal underwear under pajamas and extra blankets will help for warmth overnight. Of course, if you go outside, make sure to wear a winter coat, hat, gloves, scarf, and boots. If your clothes get wet or snow-covered, change into dry ones as soon as possible.

Eat right. Proper nourishment is important year-round, but especially critical during winter months. In addition to boosting the immune system, good nutrition will help maintain proper weight and fat to keep the body warm. You’ll also want to make sure to stay hydrated by drinking water; hydration is essential in preventing hypothermia. Alcohol can make you lose body heat, so consume less or avoid altogether. It also may cause poor decision making, like spending too much time outside and cold.

Be ready. Being prepared can prevent the worst from happening. Having ample amounts of prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, stocked-up food and water supplies for three days, and laid out plans for staying informed and getting emergency help are ways to get ready in case a winter warning turns into a winter event. It’s also good to arrange for regular check-ins with your loved ones so potential issues and needs can be spotted early.

Winter can be a beautiful, magical time with celebrations and coziness for seniors. To ensure the best season, stay safe – and warm – until spring comes alive again.

Sources: CDC; NIH; Health in Aging; Penn State Extension.