During the winter months, ice, snow and cold temperatures can make life challenging for anyone. Slippery sidewalks and cold weather can cause a wide range of injuries and illnesses, especially for seniors.
Check out the tips below that are specific to winter for preventing common cold-weather dangers that the elderly population faces.
• Avoid slipping on ice: Make sure to wear shoes with good traction and non-skid soles, and stay inside until the roads are clear. Replace a worn cane tip to make walking easier. Take off your shoes as soon as you return indoors because often snow and ice is attached to the soles and, once melted, can lead to slippery conditions inside.
• Dress for warmth: Cold temperatures can lead to frostbite and hypothermia, a condition where the body temperature dips too low. More than half of hypothermia-related deaths were of people over the age of 65. Don't let indoor temperatures go too low and dress in layers. Going outside? Wear warm socks, a heavy coat, a warm hat, gloves and a scarf. In very cold temperatures, cover all exposed skin. Use a scarf to cover your mouth and protect your lungs. Your body temperature should never dip below 95 degrees. If it does get medical assistance immediately.
• Fight wintertime depression: Because it can be difficult and dangerous to get around, many seniors have less contact with others during cold months. This can breed feelings of loneliness and isolation. To help avoid these issues, family members can check in on seniors as often as possible. A short, daily phone call can also make a big difference. Seniors can also arrange a check-in system with neighbors and friends, where each person looks in on one or two others daily.
• Check the car: Driving during the winter can be hazardous for anyone, but it is especially dangerous for older people, who may not drive as often anymore or whose reflexes may not be as quick as they once were. Get your car serviced before wintertime hits or ask a family member to take it to a garage for you. Checking things like the oil, tires, battery and wipers can make a big difference on winter roads.
• Prepare for power outages: Winter storms can lead to power outages. Make sure you have easy access to flashlights and a battery-powered radio in case the power goes out. Stockpile warm blankets. Longer power outages can spoil the food in your refrigerator and freezer, so keep a supply of nonperishable foods that can be eaten cold on hand. If the power goes out, wear several layers of clothing, including a hat. Move around a lot to raise your body temperature.
• Eat a varied diet: Because people spend more time indoors and may eat a smaller variety of foods, nutritional deficits such as Vitamin D deficiency can occur. Try consuming foods that are fortified with Vitamin D, such as milk, grains and seafood options like tuna and salmon.
• Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning: Using a fireplace, gas heater or lanterns can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Ensure your safety by checking the batteries on your carbon monoxide detector and buying an updated one if you need to.
The most important tip to keep in mind during the colder months is to ask for help. If you need to clear your property of snow and ice, don't hesitate to ask a family member or neighbor, or hire a professional. Arrange rides to the grocery store and doctor's appointments. Call for the Mini Bus at (620) 272-3626.
Wintertime certainly poses challenges for seniors, but with a bit of planning and awareness, you will stay healthy and experience the joys of springtime soon enough.
Thursday: TOPS, 8:30 a.m.; Art class, 10 a.m.; Bridge, 1:15 p.m.; Skip-Bo, 1 p.m.; Strength training, 4 p.m.; PIYO, 5:30 p.m.; Yoga, 6 p.m.
Friday: Line dancing, 8:30 a.m.; a nurse from St. Catherine Hospital is here from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.; Enhance Fitness, 1 p.m.; Foot Clinic, 1 to 3 p.m. (by appointment only); Learn to Play Qwirkle, 1 p.m., Bridge, 1:15 p.m.
Saturday: The pool room is open from 1 to 4 p.m.
Sunday: Duplicate bridge, 2 p.m.
Tuesday: Pitch, 12:30 p.m.; Bridge, 1:15 p.m., PIYO, 5:30 p.m.; Yoga, 6 p.m.
Nov. 14: Line dancing, 8:30 a.m., completely unraveled, 9:30 a.m.; pinochle, 12:30 p.m.; Enhance Fitness, 1 p.m.; Bridge, 1:15 p.m.; Dance with Craig Stevens, 7:30 p.m. ($5.00 per person).
Thursday: BBQ chicken breast, baked potatoes with sour cream, corn, fruit
Friday: Fried jumbo shrimp, mac & cheese, peas, fruit
Tuesday: Spaghetti with meat sauce, corn, garlic bread, fruit
Wednesday, Rosemary pork loin, AuGratin potatoes, green beans, fruit
Patti Thummel is the interim executive director of the Senior Center of Finney County and director of Meals on Wheels.