Winter is a season that can pose many challenges and health risks for older people. The cold weather can make them more prone to illnesses, injuries, and complications such as hypothermia, frostbite, and falls. Therefore, it is important for older people to take some precautions to stay safe and healthy during the winter months. Here are some tips that can help:
Keep warm: One of the most important things to do in winter is to keep your body temperature at a comfortable level. This can prevent hypothermia, which is a dangerous condition that occurs when your body temperature drops below 35°C (95°F). Hypothermia can cause confusion, drowsiness, weakness, and even death. To avoid hypothermia, you should:
Stay indoors as much as possible, or limit your time outside to short periods.
Keep your indoor temperature at 18°C (65°F) or warmer. If you need help with heating costs, you may be eligible for some financial assistance programs. Contact your local social services agency for more information.
Stay dry, as wet clothing can make you lose body heat faster. Change your clothes if they get wet from snow, rain, or sweat.
Dress smartly, by wearing loose layers of clothing that trap air and provide insulation. The outer layer should be waterproof and windproof. Don’t forget to wear a hat, gloves, scarf, and warm socks. These items can prevent heat loss from your head, hands, neck, and feet, which are the most exposed parts of your body.
Eat well: Eating nutritious food can help you maintain your energy and immunity levels. This can help you fight off infections and cope with the cold. To eat well, you should:
Eat regular meals throughout the day, and avoid skipping breakfast. Eating small and frequent meals can help you keep your metabolism and blood sugar stable.
Eat food that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. These foods can boost your immune system and protect your cells from damage.
Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, to stay hydrated. Dehydration can make you more vulnerable to hypothermia and other health problems. Aim for at least eight glasses of water a day, and avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can dehydrate you.
Exercise: Physical activity can help you improve your blood circulation, muscle strength, balance, and mood. This can help you prevent falls, injuries, and depression. To exercise safely, you should:
Consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program, especially if you have any chronic conditions or mobility issues.
Choose low-impact exercises that are suitable for your fitness level and health condition, such as walking, yoga, tai chi, or swimming. Avoid exercises that are too strenuous or risky, such as skiing, skating, or shoveling snow.
Exercise indoors or during the warmest part of the day, and avoid exercising in extreme cold or windy conditions. Wear appropriate clothing and footwear, and warm up and cool down properly.
Exercise with a friend, family member, or caregiver, or join a senior fitness class or group. This can make exercise more fun and social, and provide you with support and safety.
Prevent falls: Falls are one of the most common causes of injuries and hospitalizations among older people. The risk of falling increases in winter due to slippery surfaces, poor visibility, and reduced mobility. To prevent falls, you should:
Wear shoes or boots that have good traction and fit well. Avoid shoes that are too loose, tight, or have heels. You can also use ice grippers or crampons that attach to your shoes to improve your grip on icy or snowy surfaces.
Use a cane, walker, or other assistive device if you have trouble with balance or walking. Make sure your device is in good condition and has rubber tips or ice picks. You can also use a wrist strap or loop to prevent your device from slipping out of your hand.
Clear your walkways of snow and ice, or ask someone to do it for you. You can also use salt, sand, or kitty litter to melt or add traction to slippery surfaces. Be careful when stepping on or off curbs, stairs, or uneven ground.
Carry a cell phone or a personal alarm device with you when you go out, in case you need to call for help. You can also inform someone of your whereabouts and expected return time, and check in with them when you get back.
Stay connected: Social isolation and loneliness can affect your mental and emotional health, especially during the winter when you may feel more cut off from your friends and family. To stay connected, you should:
Keep in touch with your loved ones by phone, email, text, or video chat. You can also send them cards, letters, or photos to show them you care.
Join a senior center, club, or group that offers activities and programs that interest you. You can also volunteer for a cause that you are passionate about, or take a class to learn something new.
Seek help if you feel depressed, anxious, or hopeless. You are not alone, and there are people and resources that can help you. You can talk to your doctor, counselor, or a trusted friend or family member. You can also call a helpline or join a support group.
Winter can be a challenging time for older people, but it can also be a time to enjoy the beauty and joy of the season. By following these tips, you can stay safe, healthy, and happy during the winter months.