The cold weather is here–and with it comes snow, ice and harsh winds. Naturally, we spend more time indoors during the winter, which leads to an uptick in common illnesses like colds and the flu. These illnesses pose a greater health risk for seniors than younger adults because seniors often have compromised immune systems. Additionally, weather-related health issues can be more serious for seniors. Here are a few key ways for seniors to stay safe and healthy while it’s cold outside.
Dress For The WeatherAs you’ve gotten older, you’ve probably noticed that you feel cold more easily. It isn’t all in your head: many seniors are on medications (like beta blockers) that can decrease heart rate and reduce circulation. Additionally, many seniors experience a thinning of the skin and a decrease in subcutaneous body fat–both of which help hold in body heat. So you really do feel cold much more easily at 70 than you did when you were 40. As a result of the decrease in subcutaneous fat that comes with age, seniors are more susceptible to life-threatening health conditions like hypothermia. It’s important to check the weather each day, and dress accordingly. If the temperature is below freezing, wear an extra layer–and protect your nose and mouth with a scarf. The ears may also be vulnerable to the biting cold so earmuffs are a must.
Watch Out For Asthma, COPD TriggersCold weather can cause an uptick in asthma attacks. Additionally, for seniors who struggle with COPD or other lung conditions, the cold weather can cause lung irritation, wheezing, and even life-threatening shortness of breath. It’s important to protect yourself from asthma attacks and COPD flare-ups during the winter. Cover your nose and mouth when going outside. If the temperature falls below freezing, it’s best to stay inside or keep your trips outside to a minimum.
Be Careful in Slippery ConditionsIn most parts of the country, the arrival of winter means the possibility of snow, sleet and ice. Unfortunately, winter weather is notorious for causing serious falls that lead to injuries and hospitalization. This is especially true for seniors who have balance and mobility issues. Each year, nearly 3 million seniors are treated for fall-related injuries in the United States. Many of those falls are attributed to slippery or icy conditions during the wintertime. Here’s how you can protect yourself or an aging loved one from a fall due to winter weather conditions:
- Make sure you or your loved one has the correct footwear for the occasion. Rubber-soled winter boots or shoes offer the best traction and grip in icy conditions. If you’re looking for shoes or boots that are ideal for slippery winter weather conditions, check out this helpful guide.
- Make sure steps, handrails and supports leading into and out of exterior doors are in good shape and can support full body weight.
- Make sure steps, sidewalks, patios, porches and driveways are shoveled and treated for icy conditions.
- If there are no handrails for support on front or rear entrances, consider adding them. Even a single handrail can prevent a catastrophic fall.
- Have a plan of action in place. If your loved one does fall, make sure he or she knows who to call and has the ability to call, even in an immobile state. A Senior Medical Alert system can help give you and your aging loved one peace of mind.