As winter approaches, many seniors worry about staying safe. For some, the fear of falling or getting the flu is a serious concern. Traveling can also be risky but there are a few things you can do to make sure you avoid some of the hazards the winter weather can bring.
What a lot of seniors do not know is how easy it is to experience hypothermia. As people age, their bodies lose heat more quickly—this happens even on mild days. Some advice offered by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) includes keeping the temperature in your home around 68 degrees and staying mobile. This will help you avoid getting cold and uncomfortable on the coldest days.
When it snows, falls become a serious concern. While seniors over 65 are at an increased risk for a fall, this increases dramatically for those over 75. Once a senior falls, the chances he or she will fall again in the next year is more likely, and taking a few extra precautions can avoid injury:
- Dress in layers if you go out as the cold can make your muscles stiff leading to an increased chance of a fall.
- Wear shoes or boots with rubber soles.
- Hold on to a handrail as needed and walk slowly.
The flu is another concern for seniors, and this is because as we age, our immune systems don’t do as good of a job and it is harder to fight infections. The CDC cautions that for seniors, there is a high risk of potential complications from the flu. Older adults can get pneumonia from the flu, and this can be deadly. Getting a flu shot every year helps as does hand washing and staying away from events where people are ill.
Perhaps the least discussed concern for seniors in winter is the high rate of social isolation as it becomes challenging to travel in bad weather. Not having the ability to interact with friends in addition to the shorter days can make a senior feel depressed and alone. While it may be difficult to get to see a friend or family member who is a senior, calling that person and checking in can help a senior feel more connected to others.
In some cases, the feeling of isolation can turn into Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. This can be caused by a reduction in exposure to sunlight. The CDC cautions that those who live in the Northeast are at an increased risk of having this disorder as the days are shorter in the winter. Sometimes light therapy can help, and a doctor can assist a friend or family member in getting the resources he or she needs to overcome feeling depressed.
Taking extra care in the winter can avoid costly medical bills and make the winter more enjoyable for you, even on the coldest days.