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7 Winter Safety Tips for Older Adults

Updated Dec 7, 2022

Updated Dec 7, 2022

Home > Blog > 7 Winter Safety Tips for Older Adults

Falling snow, the holidays, and hot cocoa are wonderful aspects of wintertime. However, winter also comes with a host of safety issues, especially for older Americans. 

Older adults are at a higher risk of hypothermia, falling, sickness, and other weather-related injuries. 

If you or a family member are worried about winter’s impact on your health, don’t worry. Our seven winter safety tips for older adults will help keep you or your loved one safe and healthy.  

1. Watch Out for Seasonal Depression

older woman looking upset or suffering depression
Image Source: Canva

While it may not be the first thing you think of when you think of cold weather safety, depression is a serious illness that affects many people. 

People experience seasonal depression during the gloomy fall and winter months. 

Seasonal depression occurs when there is less exposure to sunlight and older adults, who often spend more time inside, are more prone to it. 

If you’re a caregiver to an older adult or are concerned about your health, research the signs of depression, such as loss of appetite, chronic fatigue, poor sleep, and irritability. Encourage yourself or your loved one to go outside for a short period during the sunniest time of day to soak up Vitamin D. If the symptoms persist, reach out to a doctor. 

2. Dress Warmly 

Older adults lose body heat faster, so warm clothes are essential during winter, both indoors and outdoors. Unfortunately, being very cold can make you sick, and a big chill can quickly become a serious health crisis, especially for older Americans. 

Hypothermia occurs when the body’s temperature drops. For older adults, a body temperature of 95℉ or lower can lead to serious health issues, like kidney problems, a heart attack, liver damage, or even death. 

Hypothermia can strike indoors and outdoors, especially in folks more susceptible to the cold. 

Many adults don’t even realize that they’re experiencing hypothermia, making it a particularly scary condition. 

Common signs of hypothermia consist of:

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Speaking slowly
  • Having trouble walking
  • Shivering
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness

If you or a loved one are experiencing these symptoms, do not hesitate to call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room, as hypothermia may lead to serious health issues and even death.

Dress warmly during cold weather, even when you’re inside. Wearing socks and slippers indoors insulates you. We also recommend throwing a warm blanket or quilt over yourself and wearing long underwear or a cap or hat to bed.  

Always wear multiple layers of clothing when you go outside, as the air between the layers will keep you warm. A hat, mittens, and scarf are must-haves because they protect parts of the body where heat escapes. If you get damp, immediately change your clothes to prevent a chill.

3. Take No-slip Precautions

While snow is beautiful, it also increases your risk of falling and slipping, mainly when it’s icy. 

Clearing walkways promptly will minimize the risk of accidents. 

However, you must check with your doctor to ensure that shoveling is appropriate. Snow shoveling can put a lot of stress on the heart, especially if you’re predisposed to or have heart disease. 

If you cannot remove the snow yourself, ask a caregiver or loved one for help salting icy walkways and removing snow. 

4. Winterize Your House 

hands applying weather seal caulk to window frame
Image Source: Canva

Regular maintenance and preventative measures keep homes optimized for the winter months. Here are our top tips for winterizing a home: 

  • Have the gutters cleaned and the roof checked regularly for loose shingles.
  • Examine windows and entry points for signs of cool air coming in. Use caulking or weather stripping to fill in any gaps to keep the home well insulated.
  • If there is a power outage, stay with a loved one. 
  • Have a professional inspect gas appliances, fireplaces, and woodstoves.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector in your bedroom and on each level of the home to give you peace of mind that you’ll be alerted should this deadly gas leak into your home.
  • Always keep the indoor temperature at 68℉ or warmer to minimize your risk of hypothermia. 

5. Drive Safely

Before bad weather strikes, have your car checked out by a mechanic, with particular attention to your car’s tires, windshield wipers, and antifreeze. 

You should avoid driving on icy roads, particularly bridges or overpasses. If you can, choose an alternative route or a route with bigger roads, which are more likely to be cleared of snow. 

In addition to taking driving safety precautions, always keep your cell phone on you and stock your car with emergency supplies, such as blankets, water, a first aid kit, and a shovel. 

6. Speak With Your Doctor About Your Medications

Certain medications and health conditions make it more difficult for your body to stay warm and maintain a healthy temperature. Here are a few things to consider: 

  • Diabetes may prevent blood from flowing normally, making it more difficult for your body to stay warm. 
  • Thyroid problems may affect your ability to maintain a normal body temperature.
  • Older adults with health issues like arthritis and Parkinson’s disease may have a more difficult time putting on multiple layers of clothing. 
  • Certain medications, including over-the-counter medicines, can affect your body heat. 
  • Adults struggling with memory loss may forget to wear appropriate winter clothing. 

If you or a loved one struggles with any of these, take appropriate precautions now to protect yourself or them. 

7. Prevent Fires and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

carbon monoxide alarm with fire extinguisher
Image Source: Canva

During winter, it’s more commonplace to use heating sources such as the fireplace, natural gas, or kerosene heaters. However, these heating sources can be dangerous if not properly maintained and vented. 

If not maintained, the appliances may leak carbon monoxide, an odorless and deadly gas. 

Other heat sources, like a space heater, lead to increased fire hazard risks, so always exercise caution when using them. Never leave these heat sources unattended. 

Closing Thoughts

We hope this guide on winter safety tips for older adults will help you or your loved one stay warm and safe during cold temperatures. Start preparing for winter as soon as possible by having regular maintenance performed and stockpiling important supplies, like nonperishable food, in your home and vehicle should a winter storm hit. 

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