As we age, cold weather can be extremely dangerous. Plummeting temperatures can lead to icy sidewalks, hypothermia and other serious injuries.
The frigid weather takes its toll on pets, homes, cars and bodies. Frozen pipes, dead car batteries and bodily injuries are common and often require us to seek help.
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 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. Opt for 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 into 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 thermostat to at least 68 degrees and wear warm clothing. Check with the utility company to see if you qualify for assistance.
Carol Marak is an aging advocate and editor at Seniorcare.com. She holds a Certificate in Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.