Extreme temperature changes can be dangerous to the senior set. This can make winter weather as challenging as the summertime heat, as winter also throws ice and snow into the mix, which can make getting around treacherous.
Here are some safety precautions to take whether seniors are venturing outdoors or simply winterproofing their homes.
Around the House
• Keep the thermostat set to at least 65 F (19 C) to prevent hypothermia. Do not use the oven to provide heat in the house. If it is difficult to afford heating oil, propane or natural gas, find out if there is a senior program in your area.
• Inexpensive plastic sheeting can provide extra draft protection on windows.
• Purchase carbon monoxide detectors to signal whether there is dangerous carbon monoxide present at the first instant.
• If possible, pay a service or neighbor to shovel snow or plow the driveway. If you are forced to shovel, take frequent breaks. Listen to your body and rest if you’re tired.
• Make sure railings at entryways are in good working order and there is adequate lighting to ease with entering and exiting the home.
• Keep walkways salted to prevent ice buildup.
• Consider using delivery services or shopping online to reduce the number of trips that have to be made in inclement weather. You can even shop for groceries via the computer.
• Even though it is cold out, it is still important to stay hydrated. Seniors are often at risk for dehydration and may find it difficult to consume enough fluids when it is cold. Try for 6 to 8 glasses per day.
• Keep a bench or stool next to the door. This way you can remove your shoes upon entering and eliminate slippery puddles from melted snow that gets caught in shoe soles.
• Frostbite and hypothermia are two of the biggest dangers seniors face. Always dress in layers to leave some leeway for fluctuating temperatures. Most susceptible body parts are fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the nose. Symptoms of frostbite include numbness and a white cast to the skin in the affected area. Hypothermia is signaled by confusion, sleepiness, reduced breathing and heart rate, and extreme shivering.
• A broken bone can be a very traumatic injury for a senior. The strength of bones diminishes as a person ages. Therefore it can take longer for you to heal than a child or younger adult. Reducing the chance for falls can help prevent such injuries. Always wear shoes with rubber treads for traction. If you rely on a walker or cane, make sure the rubber tips are in good working order. A metal pronged tip could provide added traction.
• It can be strenuous to walk through deep snow. Try to choose shoveled paths.
• Black ice can make driving treacherous, and blowing snow can reduce visibility. If you feel uncomfortable driving during inclement weather, simply don’t.