Winter weather may provide beautiful scenery and cozy sweaters, but it also provides a unique set of safety hazards. Older adults in particular are at risk. Winter conditions cause seniors to be more vulnerable to falls, hypothermia, sickness, and injuries. It’s a good idea to plan ahead and take some basic precautions.
1. Falls are concerning for seniors an older adult is seen in the emergency room every 15 seconds, as the result of a fall-related injury. Make sure to wear shoes with non-skid soles at all times, stay on sidewalks, and always use available railings.
2. If you use a walker or a cane, take the time to replace the rubber tip with a new one in order to keep it from slipping up from under you. Also, it is possible to buy an attachment very like an ice pick for the bottom of your cane, to use when it is necessary to travel in truly slick conditions.
3. Always keep a cell phone on you when you leave the house, even if you are just checking the mail. If you fall, you will be able to call for help.
4. Take time for some basic winter check-ups for your car. Take it to the shop to check air-pressure of tires, anti-freeze levels, belts and hoses, and ask about switching to a thinner grade of engine oil for better performance in the cold.
5. Put an emergency kit in your car. Make sure to include a blanket, gloves, hat, snow shovel, water, flashlight, and first aid kit. Senior citizens cannot regulate body temperature as well, and do not produce as much heat. Therefore, they are at a much higher risk for hypothermia, even in mild weather.
6. Home fires are most common in the winter months, due to the use of home heating devices. Adults who are 65 and older are three times more likely to be injured in a fire than any other age group. Change the batteries in all of your smoke detectors, and carbon monoxide detectors. If you have a space heater, always make sure it is at least three feet away from anything that is potentially flammable. Be sure to unplug it when you are not using it. When buying a new space heater, look for one that automatically shuts off.
7. Get your Flu Shot! Flu season is heading into full swing, and older adults are one of the most susceptible groups.
8. Try to arrange ahead of time for a friend or relative to shovel your driveway, and walkway every time it is necessary. If you plan on shoveling yourself, keep your shovel and salt inside of the house. That way, you can start immediately, and do not have to walk over any slippery turf. Dress warmly in layers, and take breaks inside regularly.
9. Socialize! When driving and traveling conditions deteriorate, it can be easy to isolate yourself, which can lead to depression. Remember to call your family members and friends, plan outings, and consider attending a senior fitness class or social event for seniors.