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Avoiding Winter Hazards: 6 Cold Weather Safety Tips for Seniors

Healthy Living | March 8, 2024

A senior couple following cold weather safety tips as they share a moment in the winter snow.

While winter can be a magical time of year for many, seasonal hazards such as ice, cold temperatures, and loneliness can present obstacles for older adults. From slippery sidewalks to freezing winds, seniors have to be aware of the potential risks that colder weather presents – taking the necessary precautions to stay warm, healthy, and safe. 

To help, we compiled a list of six cold weather safety tips for seniors to keep in mind as they prepare for the winter months.

Winter Safety Tips for Seniors

Dress in Weather Appropriate Clothing

Depending on where you live, you might experience below freezing temperatures during several months of the year. Extended exposure to cold weather puts your body at risk of frostbite and hypothermia – especially for seniors who might need a bit more time to get around.

Seniors should take the weather into account when determining their outfit for the day. Even if you don’t believe you will be outside for an extended period, you should still consider dressing warmly in case you are outdoors longer than expected. Consider adding the following accessories to protect your extremities from the cold:

  • Water-resistant boots
  • Warm socks
  • A heavy coat
  • A warm hat
  • Gloves
  • A scarf 

While this may seem like an excessive amount of accessories, it’s important to cover all exposed skin when outside in freezing temperatures. If parts of your body are left uncovered and you choose to not follow cold weather safety precautions, you may be susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia. Be aware of the warning signs, including: 

  • Pale or ashy cold skin
  • Numbness
  • Exhaustion and weakness
  • Shivering
  • Slurred speech
  • Slow, shallow breathing

If you or your loved one experience any of these symptoms, seek shelter inside immediately and call emergency services. Follow this guide on how to slowly warm-up if you are experiencing hypothermia.

Take Extra Driving Precautions

Icy road conditions can lead to additional hazards for senior drivers. Older adults should consider alternative transportation options or “winterizing” their vehicle to ensure they can get to their destination safely during the winter months. Before driving this season, make sure to check and potentially service your tires, windshield wipers, and radiator to ensure your vehicle can operate during inclement weather.

If you choose to drive during winter weather conditions, make sure your gas tank is full and carry a charged cell phone with you in case of an emergency. Be sure to stock your vehicle with emergency supplies such as:

  • A blanket
  • Windshield scraper
  • Road flares or cones
  • Jumper cables
  • A flashlight 

Your best bet to avoid the risks of driving during inclement weather is by staying off the road entirely when it’s covered with snow and ice. If you can, consider rescheduling your plans for another day or reaching out to a trusted driver to take you to your destination. 

Eat a Nutritious Diet

While nutrition is a critical component of a healthy lifestyle year-round, seniors should be aware of certain vitamin deficiencies that are common during the winter season. Vitamin D deficiency is more common during the cold weather months. It’s crucial to avoid a vitamin D deficiency as it has been associated with health concerns like cognitive decline, depression, and osteoporosis.

To make up for the lack of vitamin D you would normally receive from daily outdoor activities, it’s important that seniors supplement their diet with vitamin D and calcium-rich foods to ensure they’re getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals necessary for good health. 

You should consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement or integrate vitamin D and calcium rich foods such as:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Mushrooms
  • Orange juice

We recommend consulting with your primary care doctor before integrating new supplements and foods into your diet to make sure it is the right choice for you.

Wear Proper Footwear to Avoid Falls

According to the CDC, 25% of US seniors fall every year – making it the leading cause of injury and injury death in the age group. Falls are especially common during the winter months as snow and freezing temperatures lead to hazardous walking conditions. Luckily, falls are mostly preventable and there are steps you can take to avoid falling.

When venturing outside of the home during the winter months, seniors should always wear sturdy, water-resistant shoes or boots with good traction and non-skid soles.  Seniors should also avoid walking on pathways unless they are clear of snow and ice. Don’t forget to remove your shoes immediately once you return home. Snow and ice can often be attached to the bottom of your shoe, leading to slippery conditions inside your home.

Heat Your Home Following Best Practices

To keep warm all winter long and avoid becoming hypothermic, seniors should maintain an internal home temperature of at least 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Seniors struggling to afford higher electric bills to keep their home adequately heated should consider looking into government funded programs like the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIHEAP helps eligible low-income seniors and families with their energy costs through bill payment assistance, weatherization, and energy-related home repairs.

Another critical thing to keep in mind when using a fireplace or gas heater to warm your  home during the winter months is carbon monoxide. Check to make sure you have active carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home to avoid the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Take Steps to Minimize Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Colder weather can often create a barrier between low-mobility seniors and their support networks – creating feelings of loneliness and isolation. While face-to-face interactions might be harder to come by, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of seasonal affective disorder.

During this season, caregivers and friends should be extra vigilant to check on their loved one as often as possible, as even a brief daily phone call can have a significant impact.

If you find yourself having trouble coping with your seasonal depression, talk to your primary care provider to create a unique care plan.

Seniors could also consider making the move into an independent living community or retirement village where they can enjoy the winter months with kindred spirits.

Enjoy Your Golden Years

Hazardous winter conditions can have a serious toll on seniors’ ability to travel and socialize. Being prepared for the snow and cold is important to maintaining your mental and physical health all season long.

Are you looking for the right community to spend your retirement years? National Church Residences offers quality senior living options around the country to help you find the right place for your golden years. Learn more or give us a call at 844-465-6063 to talk to one of our friendly staff members today.

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National Church Residences does not discriminate against individuals based on race, color, disability, familial status, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, payment source, or any other class protected by applicable law, whether in employment or its activities, programs, or services. National Church Residences also does not discriminate based on age, except as required by government entitlements or permitted by applicable law for seniors.