13 Jan 7 Cold Weather Safety Tips for Seniors
As we edge deeper into the winter season, temperatures throughout the country will continue to drop. For seniors, cold weather is more than just a nuisance. It can pose a direct risk to a senior’s health. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), seniors lose their body heat more quickly than younger adults, resulting in a greater risk of hypothermia. So, how can seniors protect themselves from the cold winter weather?
#1) Avoid Ice
Ice is a major safety hazard for seniors during the winter. When the temperature drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, any lingering water outside a senior’s home will freeze. If a senior happens to walk on a patch of ice, he or she could slip and fall. Seniors should use caution when walking outdoors in-subfreezing weather to avoid patches of ice.
It’s important to note that seniors shouldn’t attempt to remove ice or snow from their driveway by themselves. Shoveling snow is dangerous for seniors, as it only takes a single fall to cause broken bones. Furthermore, research shows that shoveling snow significantly increases the risk of heart attack. If a senior’s driveway is covered in ice or snow, he or she should ask for assistance rather than attempting to remove it themselves.
#2) Bundle Up in Layers
Seniors can beat the cold weather by wearing multiple layers of clothing. The speed at which a senior loses his or her body heat is heavily influenced by the thermal insulation value of their clothing. Wearing multiple layers increases the thermal insulation value of a senior’s clothing, resulting in greater warmth. Each layer traps the senior’s body heat to protect him or her from the cold weather.
#3) Wear Thick Socks
In addition to layers, seniors should consider wearing thick socks to protect against the cold weather. Circulation generally slows down with age. As a result, seniors often experience cold extremities, including their feet, during the winter. While a pair of thin cotton socks may suffice during the warmer months of the year, they may prove insufficient during the winter. When it’s particularly cold outside, seniors should wear thick socks, preferably wool rather than cotton, to keep their feet warm.
#4) Maintain the Thermostat
Of course, seniors should set their home’s thermostat to an appropriate temperature that’s comfortable but not too hot. Whether a senior lives alone or an assisted-living community, maintaining the thermostat is essential to creating a comfortable living space.
What’s an appropriate temperature setting for the winter? It’s really up to the senior and his or her preference. With that said, 68 to 74 degrees Fahrenheit is a safe and efficient level that most seniors find comfortable.
#5) Moisturize Skin
The air isn’t just cooler during the winter; it’s drier. When the temperature drops, the humidity tends to drop with it. Unfortunately, this can lead to dry skin — a condition to which seniors are more susceptible than younger adults.
As seniors age, their skin loses its natural moisture. The problem of dry skin is compounded, however, during the winter months because of the season’s low humidity levels. With less moisture vapor in the air, seniors often experience more severe dry skin during the winter. To prevent dryness-related irritation, seniors should moisturize their skin daily during this time of year.
Along with daily moisturizing, a humidifier can help protect against dry skin. Humidifiers live up to their namesake by increasing the humidity level. If the air inside a senior’s home is dry, he or she can install a humidifier to make it more moist.
#6) Stay Dry
To protect against hypothermia, seniors should stay dry. Wearing wet clothes raises a senior’s risk of hypothermia. If a senior’s clothes are wet, he or she will quickly lose body heat in cold weather. Wearing wet clothes encourages the loss of body heat and, therefore, increases the risk of hypothermia.
To stay dry, seniors should consider wearing a raincoat or other water-resistant jacket if there’s rain or snow in the forecast. Not all fabrics are absorbent. Some repel water instead of absorbing it. By wearing a coat or jacket made of a water-resistant fabric, seniors can stay dry and comfortable.
#7) Wear a Cap
Wearing a cap can help seniors stay warm during the cold winter weather. According to a study published in the medical journal BMJ, the average person loses up to 10% of his or her body heat through their heed. As previously mentioned, seniors often suffer from poor circulation, so their extremities are more susceptible to the cold weather than those of younger adults. With a cap, a senior can cover and insulate his or her ears and scalp.
Not all seniors live in regions that experience cold winters. Regardless, though, most seniors will probably encounter at least a few days of subfreezing temperatures every so often. By following these seven tips, seniors can protect themselves from the dangers of cold weather.