10 Winter Safety Tips for Seniors

Winter can be a dangerous time for everyone, but older adults are especially at risk.

As we age, our body becomes more sensitive to temperature changes, our balance becomes less steady, our bones become more brittle and our immune system weakens. So it’s critical for senior adults to take some extra precautions during winter months.

In this guide, we outline 10 helpful winter safety tips for seniors.

Couple on sled in winter

How seniors can stay safe in the winter

Keep yourself and your older loved ones safe this winter by adhering to the following tips:

1. Limit how much you use space heaters

The allure of a space heater can be hard to resist. But these devices are the cause of the majority of fatal house fires, and people age 65 and over are 2.5 times more likely to die in a home fire.

2. Wear safe shoes

Broken hips are common among older adults and can lead to more serious health complications. Seniors should wear shoes with non-skid soles that offer the necessary amount of traction for winter conditions.

Avoid going outside until snow and ice have been cleared from walkways, and avoid going out after dark when re-freezing is more likely to occur.

3. Keep your kitchen stocked

A winter storm can make it hard to get to the grocery store, and it could even prevent meals from being delivered to your home.

It’s important to keep your kitchen stocked with at least one week’s worth of food and water. There should also be an abundance of non-perishable food that does not require any cooking or refrigeration, in case you lose power.

It’s also a good idea to keep your medicine cabinet full of cold medicine, and make sure you have an adequate supply of your prescriptions before a storm hits.

4. Keep an emergency kit

It’s a good idea to keep a winter emergency kit on hand in case a power outage causes you to lose heat or lights.

Some things to keep in your kit include:

  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Hand warmers
  • Pre-paid cell phone
  • Manual can opener
  • Battery-powered (or hand-cranked) weather radio
  • First-aid supplies
  • Whistle
  • Cash
  • Matches or lighter

5. Be aware of the warmth in your home

You don’t have to venture outside in the winter time to catch hypothermia. This deadly condition can set in right in the safety of your own home ,and older adults lose body heat at a much quicker rate than younger people.

What’s worse is that hypothermia sets in very gradually, and you can often be unaware that it’s setting in.  

Some tips to avoid hypothermia at home include:

  • Keep the thermostat set to at least 68 degrees at all times
  • Dress in layers around the house
  • Wear thick socks and slippers
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, as alcohol consumption causes you to lose body heat
  • Sleep in pajamas or sweatpants
  • Place rolled up towels or blankets under doorways to prevent drafts and seal off window panes with plastic

6. Eat a healthy winter time diet

Older adults spend more time indoors during the winter months, which can lead to a Vitamin D deficiency.

Avoid this by eating a winter time diet rich with milk, orange juice, cheese, egg yolks, grains and seafood.

7. Monitor your home’s carbon monoxide levels

The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning increases in the winter because of an increased use of gas fireplaces, furnaces, generators and other heating devices.

Test your carbon monoxide detector once a month each winter. Understand the symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure, which include shortness of breath, nausea or dizziness, headaches and a feeling of confusion.

8. Avoid the winter time blues

Winter is a time for seasonal depression, thanks to fewer daylight hours and decreased social interaction. Depression can cause malnutrition and affect your mental health.

During winter, take advantage of caregiver services and adult day care, as social interaction has been shown to combat depression.

9. Prep your car

Give your car a winter tune-up by having the brakes, tires and battery checked. Also check your windshield wipers to make sure they work smoothly and cleanly.

If you have a AAA membership, make sure your policy information and payments are up to date. You may even consider storing your car for the winter and using ridesharing services instead.

10. Set up regular check-ins with your loved ones

Many seniors live alone and far away from other family members. But that doesn’t mean you can’t stay connected to loved ones!

Set up a daily check-in time with a friend or family member, or even consider some senior-friendly video calling technology like KOMP.

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This article is for informational purposes only. It is not healthcare advice. Speak to your doctor or healthcare provider about your specific healthcare needs.

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