Winter Safety for Older Adults

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Updated: January 15, 2015

senior safety during the winter

Be sure you dress for the weather that you are in and carry your medical alert with you on the go

Winter has arrived.  Even if you are a fan of the colder weather this season brings, there is no doubt it presents some possible safety hazards, many of which are even more dangerous for older adults.  Below are some tips for keeping yourself safe and healthy during the winter months.

  • Dressing for warmth is particularly important for seniors. According to the Center for Disease Control, people over the age of 65 account for more than half of all deaths related to hypothermia.  Therefore, you should make sure your home is properly heated when you are indoors.  When you go outside, dress in layers, and make sure all of your exposed skin is covered.  Be sure you have a heavy coat, a warm hat, a scarf, gloves, and warm socks in your wardrobe.  It is very important that you never let your internal body temperature go below 95 degrees, and if it does, you need to seek medical help urgently.
  • Take steps to avoid slipping on ice by wearing shoes with non-skid soles and good traction. If you use a cane and the tip is worn, replace it immediately. When you return indoors from walking in ice and snow, remove your shoes so the water melting off them does not create hazardous-slippery conditions inside.
  • If you are using a gas furnace, fireplace, or other gas heaters in your home for warmth, it is very important to install a carbon monoxide detector on every floor, and frequently check the batteries, just as you would with a smoke alarm.
  • If you haven’t done so already, take your car in for service to have the tires, oil level, battery, and windshield wipers checked. You want to make sure you have high visibility and a low chance of breaking down while you are driving on winter roads.  It’s also a good idea to have a blanket stored in your car for an emergency situation.
  • Make sure you are prepared for the power outages that can accompany ice and snow storms. Stockpile flashlights and batteries, warm blankets, bottles of water, and non-perishable foods in case of emergency.
  • Seniors are especially prone to vitamin D deficiency, which is detrimental to your bone health. During the winter you will likely be outdoors less and therefore not benefiting from the vitamin D your body normally absorbs through sunlight.  Make sure to include some foods in your diet that are rich in vitamin D, such as tuna, salmon, whole grains, and milk.
  • Because it is more difficult to get from place to place in the winter, many seniors spend more time at home, and eventually begin to feel lonely and isolated. Unfortunately, this can lead to a bad case of seasonal depression.  You can combat this by checking in with family and friends via telephone, e-mail, instant message, and/or Skype.