How to Stay Safe This Winter
This winter is expected to be colder and snowier in much of the country, including the Chicagoland area, thanks to La Niña conditions. This increases the likelihood of falls, hypothermia and other perils, especially for seniors. Here are some tips on how to stay safe and warm during the coming months.
Be mindful of icy conditions
Pay attention to weather alerts about freezing rain, snow and ice, all of which increase the risk of falls. A Canadian study showed that older people were 20 percent more likely to fall after a freezing rain. If you do need to go out, make sure you’re wearing the proper footwear – preferably boots with strong, nonskid soles. Consider using a pair of ski poles for balance if conditions are particularly bad. If you run across an icy patch, slow down and become conscious of your next step. Keep your knees loose and bend them to lower your center of gravity.
This is an obvious one, but be sure and include a covering for your head and hands, which can lose a lot of heat. Dress in layers, so if you are going out, you can still be warm when you reach your destination. Not everyone keeps their thermostats turned up as high as what may be comfortable for you.
Maintain physical activity
Don’t let cold weather keep you from getting out and getting some exercise. This can help keep your muscles stay strong, which reduces your risk of falling. If your healthcare provider gives you the okay, try out winter sports such as snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Head to your local senior center to take a yoga or tai chi class. Call up a friend and go bowling. By staying active, you’ll not only feel better in the short term, you’ll be laying the groundwork for many long-term benefits as well.
Stay connected with family and friends
Winter can create a sense of isolation, which can lead to depression. So make socializing a priority. Make a date with a friend to see a movie or play. If you’re unable to get out because of a health condition, invite people over for coffee or tea. Keeping socially active can improve memory, increase your lifespan, and increase your enjoyment of life.
Winterize your home
As temperatures drop, hypothermia becomes a real concern for older Americans. More than 600 seniors die every year from it. Make sure your furnace is in good working order and change the filter if it’s been a while since you’ve done so – dirty filters can restrict airflow. Seal up any window and door gaps with caulking, weather stripping, or even a handmade “draft snake” – which can be as simple as sticking a rolled-up towel under a drafty door. Insulate your pipes to keep them from freezing. And finally, make sure you’ve stocked up on plenty of food in case a blizzard keeps you homebound for several days.
Listen for radio or TV reports of travel advisories issued by the National Weather Service. Avoid travel in low visibility and on ice-covered roads. If you must travel in ice or snow, let someone know your destination and when you expect to arrive. Bring a mobile phone with you.
Eating healthfully during wintertime can be challenging – overindulging at holiday parties and events, a shrinking availability of many fresh fruits and vegetables, gifts of holiday cookies, pies and fruitcakes, and an inability to get out as easily can all contribute to eating less healthfully. It’s so much easier to order in a pizza than to head out into the cold to buy groceries. But with a little planning, you can stock up on more healthful choices and enjoy them throughout the season.