When temperatures fall, seniors run a higher risk of health problems and injury related to the weather. However, recognizing the risks and taking proper precautions can make many of the problems associated with the colder weather preventable.
Whether you’re a caregiver of an aging adult, or an aging adult yourself, here are some cold weather risks you should be aware of and some key safety tips to stay healthy this winter.
Recognizing the Risks
Older adults tend to lose body heat faster than when they were young. Therefore, they are that much more susceptible to hypothermia. Even being in a cold home for too long can cause an older person’s body temperature to dip below the 95 degree mark and start to cause serious health problems.
Some illnesses can also affect the body’s ability to stay warm. Diabetes for example, affects blood flowing normally and thyroid issues can make it more difficult for the body to maintain a normal body temperature. Additionally, issues with arthritis make it more difficult to put on more clothing, boots, and blankets.
1. Plan Ahead
If you’re planning to go out, stay ahead of the weather forecast and plan your trips outdoors ahead of time. Try to steer clear of days with high winds and precipitation as both can steal body heat more quickly. If you have to go out, wear plenty of layers, a waterproof coat if possible, and keep your head and neck covered.
2. Keep an Eye on Blood Pressure
Snaps of cold weather can increase blood pressure and put a strain on the heart due to it having to work harder to maintain body heat. This makes heart attacks and high blood pressure more common in winter. Knowing this, be sure to ask your doctor if any medications you’re taking effect blood pressure as well.
3. Slips and Falls
Falls in general are already a leading cause of injuries for older adults and carry with them a huge negative impact on quality of life. Add cold, wet, icy conditions to the mix and as you might assume, the likelihood of experiencing a fall in the colder months increases. Holland Home takes extra precautions by making sure steps and walkways are clear. Even in independent living, you’ll never have to worry about clearing away snow on walkways or putting salt down on paved surfaces. However, having boots with non-skid soles can provide some extra grip on slippery surfaces. If you use a cane or walker, make sure the rubber tip(s) are in good condition and have them replaced them if needed.
4. Seasonal Depression
Combine the facts that seniors are often less mobile with the above risks that come with colder temperatures and seniors are much less likely to spend their time outdoors during sunlight hours during the winter months. This also makes them less likely to participate in social events and exercise. On top of that, their family and friends are less likely to venture out for visits. All of these factors increase their chances of depression. By using some of the tips above such as planning ahead, you can spend time outside when it is tolerable. Staying both physically and socially active and maintaining a healthy diet will also help seniors cope with those winter blues.
5. Stay Active!
While mild daily exercise is important for everyone, seniors are especially prone to the ill effects of inactivity. In addition, joint pain can often be felt more acutely in winter. Staying sedentary can make that joint pain worse. Activities such as swimming, taking a walk with a friend, and stretching not only keep you physically well but keep you social too—leading to better emotional well-being. Holland Home’s Vibrant Living calendar provides a variety of social activities and is packed with a number of ways to keep you moving this winter.
Enjoying the Winter
We know it’s a time of year when most of us want to stay indoors but being aware of the risks and taking proper precautions can make the winter months an enjoyable and happy time. The key is not to isolate yourself. If you have family nearby, reach out to them. Band with friends and neighbors to help each other stay active and enjoy meals together.