Canadian winters bring chilly weather, big storms, howling wind, and frequent snowing — which are usually not favourable conditions to move safely. Therefore, it’s essential that older adults properly prepare for the colder months to stay safe during the period.
At Seasons Retirement, we care for and support our residents to ensure they remain healthy and safe at all times, regardless of environmental and weather conditions.
Here, we will discuss the health risks associated with colds and seven helpful cold weather safety tips for seniors to stay safe in winter.
As we grow older, we experience changes in our bodies that may make us more susceptible to certain health conditions. Here are some of them:
Hypothermia is a condition where the body temperature reduces significantly. Staying outside or living in a cold house can lead to this condition. Some signs of impending hypothermia are:
Some of these signs are quite common among older people, even on a warm day. Hence, it’s difficult to tell when one has hypothermia or is showing symptoms.
An older adult showing any of the symptoms above – whether hypothermic or not – should find ways to keep warm by staying indoors, dressing warmly, drinking moderate alcohol, eating enough food to gain weight, and so on.
Frostbite occurs when cold causes the skin and underlying tissues to freeze, thus leading to injuries. Before a frostbite comes a frostnip, which may lead to numbness and paleness in the affected area. That being said, note that it doesn’t cause any permanent damage unless it progresses to the latter stages.
Symptoms of frostbite include:
Because of the intense cold in winter, frostbite is usually quite common during that period.
To treat frostbite, place the affected area in warm water to restore warmth to the skin and underlying tissues. If symptoms persist, it’s advisable to visit a doctor.
Along with winter comes snow, which is often slippery to walk on. So, older adults should avoid snowy sidewalks during the colder months to prevent falls and other hazards.
If a person must walk through snow-blocked pathways, they should ensure they wear snow boots with rigid soles to give them a firmer grip on the ground. If a person walks with a cane, it should have a rubber tip or ice pick-like end for better grip on the floor.
Having discussed common health risks during winter, let’s highlight seven winter safety tips to guide older adults through the season.
One common problem people face during winter is running out of supplies. This is because they might need help to run to the store to get new supplies due to snow-filled pathways, poor visibility, or freezing weather.
So, a winter safety tip for seniors is to stock up on emergency supplies like groceries, food items, etc. A rule of thumb is to provide one week’s worth of drugs and consumables if you cannot go out within that time frame.
It’s also a good idea to have an emergency backup for non-consumables like batteries, clothing, flashlights, etc.
Because of excess snow downpours, your usual routes may be blocked or too slippery to pass through. In such situations, you should take alternate routes that you know are safer, regardless of how long the roads are — this is one of the most essential winter safety tips.
If an older adult feels the journey might be too long, causing them to stay out in the cold for an extended period, they may avoid the trip altogether to prevent risks like hypothermia and frostbite.
Instead of going out themselves, they may hire a helper or ask a loved one to help them go on the trip while they stay home and keep busy with their favourite hobbies.
The bottom line is older people should avoid going out when the snow downpour is heavy and wait until there is a safer route, a much more convenient means of transportation, or help to go on their behalf.
This is an invaluable tip since you’re more likely to catch a cold when you stay outside for longer in winter. Older adults shouldn’t spend too much time outdoors unless it’s necessary, even if they’re wearing layers of clothing or whether it’s snowing or not.
This advice is vital because our bodies are more susceptible to the effects of temperature. Hence, limiting outdoor time is necessary.
During the colder months, it could be helpful for older persons to inform neighbours, relatives, and friends about their plans to go out, where they are going, and what routes they will take.
This is to ensure that these pre-informed individuals can locate or contact them in case of emergencies or if they stay out for too long and are unreachable.
During winter, it’s good practice to plan before taking steps, and this should reflect on your movement plans.
Before leaving the house every day, always check forecasts to know what weather to expect each day. This practice helps you avoid getting stranded in bad weather and lets you know whether it’s safe to leave the house.
This is probably the most common advice in our cold weather safety tips. During winter, older adults should wear layers of thick clothes to help prevent freezing. Otherwise, there’s a risk of getting frostbite or hypothermia.
Older adults should wear rough-soled winter boots to avoid falls when walking on snowy or slippery surfaces. These shoes will give a good grip on the ground and help reduce the risk of falling and getting injuries.
A pro tip is to buy more than one shoe if there’s an emergency — this is one of the most overlooked winter safety tips.
Stay safe out there! Harsh snow storms and cold weather accompany winter. So, it’s vital that older adults adopt the aforementioned winter safety tips to stay as safe as possible from unfortunate events like falling, catching cold-related illnesses like hypothermia and frostbite, and so on.
Remember that at Seasons, we take care of clearing all outdoor walkways, meals, medication delivery, social activities and more! This way, residents stay safe and warm and can have fun, no matter what the Canadian winter brings!