Seniors need to take care of themselves during winter


“Oh baby, it’s cold outside,” is a suitable phrase for the season and fitting for the extreme freezes we’re experiencing across the nation. Younger people see snow and ice as an amusement and a way to have fun, but for older adults, the cold brings hazards and risks of falls and hypothermia. There are no advantages in that.

That’s why it’s important for seniors to prepare properly and make sure your home and car are ready for winter’s deceptive killers. Here are the predominant ones:

Wind – winter brings high winds that can create blizzard conditions with blinding, wind-driven snow, drifting and dangerous wind chills. These winds bring down trees and utility poles.

Snow – accumulations can immobilize a region and paralyze a city, strand motorists, and interrupt emergency services.

Ice – massive build-up brings down trees, utility poles and lines, and communication towers. Power is disrupted for days while companies repair the damage.

Cold – drastic drops in temperatures frequently accompany winter storms. Infants and the elderly are most susceptible to prolonged exposure, which causes life-threatening conditions like hypothermia. Below freezing temperatures damages vegetation and cause pipes to freeze.

Ways to take care of yourself

Healthy foods – produce is out of season and costly. Check out the food market’s frozen veggies department. Be sure opt for the brands with less sodium, and select fruits and vegetables such as pomegranates, cranberries, citrus fruits, grapes, and root vegetables. Support the immune system with Vitamin C and eat foods rich in zinc, such as fish, poultry, and eggs.

Stay fit – if your doctor permits and you are able, get outside and enjoy your favorite activities. But dress in layers and wear a hat and gloves. Make sure you remember to apply sunscreen to your exposed skin and to wear insulated socks and proper shoes.

Soak up the sun – the benefits of Vitamin D plays a big part in battling the blues. Fresh air and natural light are key to fighting depression. If it’s freezing, open the blinds and sit by the window. Sunshine increases the body’s energy level and outlook.

Car safety – maintain your vehicle by testing the battery voltage, the lights, and checking the coolant levels. Check the tire pressure, and fill up the gas and windshield fluid tanks. And if you’re on the road a lot, purchase a survival kit that includes a blanket, a first-aid kit, a knife, a flashlight, jumper cables and a cell phone charger that plugs in the cigarette lighter.

Keep the house warm – an older body has a harder time maintaining its temperature, and since most seniors have a limited income, they usually turn down the heat setting. However, know that hypothermia is a significant risk, and over 13,000 hypothermia deaths occurred between 2003 and 2013 in the United States. So, set your thermostats to at least 68 degrees and wear warm clothing. Check with the utility company to see if you qualify for assistance.

By Carol Marak

Aging Matters

Carol Marak, aging advocate, columnist, and editor at She earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from the University of CA, Davis.

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