Simple steps to take winter in stride.
Winter is just around the corner and you know what that means: frigid temperatures, snowy streets, icy steps and slippery sidewalks. It’s enough to make you head south for the winter. But if you plan to weather another Reading winter, follow our winter safety tips for seniors to make the coming season less hazardous.
Baby, it’s cold outside. The older we get, the harder it is to stay warm in winter. That’s because our bodies become less efficient at regulating heat as we age. Some medicines, including over-the-counter cold remedies, can make it hard to recognize the signs of a falling body temperature. If your body temperature dips below 95 degrees, hypothermia sets in. Warning signs of hypothermia include: slowed or slurred speech; sleepiness or confusion; shivering or stiffness in the arms and legs; slow reactions; and a weak pulse.
Dress in layers. You can prevent hypothermia by dressing warmly. Wear several layers of clothing. People in eastern Siberia typically wear four or more layers of clothing and don’t begin to feel cold until the temperature drops several degrees below zero. It’s also important to wear a hat in cold weather. Close to half your body’s heat is lost through your head. If you’re layered up and still feel cold, walk around to help warm yourself.
Protect your extremities. Extreme cold can cause frostbite. People with heart disease and other circulation problems are at a higher risk of frostbite. To protect yourself, cover your extremities. Wear a hat or earmuffs that cover your ears. Opt for mittens instead of gloves (they’ll keep your hands warmer than gloves). Another trick is to wear thin rubber gloves (the kind doctors and nurses wear) inside your winter gloves. And to keep your feet nice and toasty, wear lined waterproof boots.
Think twice about shoveling. Snow shoveling is responsible for thousands of injuries and up to 100 deaths each year. If you’re not in good shape, let someone else do the shoveling for you. If you feel you’re up to the task, take it slow and easy. Stop for rest breaks and lift smaller amounts of snow. Moving multiple pounds of snow can put a strain on your heart, raise your blood pressure and injure your back. If you feel dizzy or develop tightness in your chest, stop immediately.
Check your soles. A fall that gives a 20-year-old a bruised knee can send an older adult to the hospital. To reduce your risk of falling in winter, wear shoes with rubber soles, or attach traction cleats to shoes and boots for extra stability. If you or your loved one uses a cane or walking stick, put a spike on the bottom of it. Another alternative is to switch your cane for a trekking pole designed for cold weather walks.
Watch your step. Don’t rush to get where you’re going when conditions are treacherous. To prevent falls, take short steps and walk as flat-footed as possible when it’s icy or snowy. Even if you’re just stepping out to get the mail, make sure your path is clear. Sprinkle salt on icy steps and paths.
Winterize your car. Have your antifreeze, tires and windshield wipers checked and changed if necessary. Stock your car with a windshield scraper, flashlight and a blanket. Remember to take your cell phone when you drive in bad weather. And let someone know where you’re going and when you should return. Better still, don’t drive in dicey conditions. You can probably have what you need delivered, such as prescriptions from your pharmacy, groceries from the supermarket, or ready-to-cook meals from Home Chef or HelloFresh.
Give old man winter the cold shoulder. Following these winter senior safety tips can help you survive another winter unscathed. But if you’d prefer to thrive in winter rather than merely survive it, take a tip from the folks at The Heritage of Green Hills. Residents enjoy a maintenance-free lifestyle with access to a host of amenities and services all under one roof. So instead of shoveling snow or negotiating icy paths, they’re swimming in our heated pool or warming their toes in the fireside lounge. Check out our lifestyle and see what makes winter wonderful at The Heritage.