Stay Safe This Winter
Now that we’ve passed the Winter Solstice we’re gaining daylight every day, but snow, sleet, freezing rain and icy cold temperatures are the norm for those of us in northern New England until temps warm and the first signs of spring appear in a couple of months.
Winter weather can be particularly perilous for older people who are more sensitive to the cold and may not be as steady on their feet. These tips can help you weather winter safely.
Dress Warmly: Winter is the season to bundle up. Indoors, don sweaters, vests, warm pants and socks. Long underwear adds an extra layer to help keep you snuggly. Drape a fleecy blanket over your legs when watching TV or reading. And keep your thermostat set at around 68 degrees during the daytime to remain comfortable. When heading outdoors, a warm coat, hat, and mittens are essential to keep you toasty. A muffler over your nose and mouth will keep you comfortable, particularly on below zero days and is essential if you have a breathing problem like asthma.
Avoid the Slip: Keep sand or salt in a convenient location to sprinkle on icy stairs, walkways and driveways. Always wear sturdy footwear with non-skid soles. If you like to walk for pleasure or exercise consider buying a pair of snow and ice grippers that attach to the sole of shoes to give added traction. Walking poles add stability.
Be Car Savvy: If possible, stay off the roads during any weather event. If you’re not comfortable driving during the winter months, check out senior transportation options in your area, or ask a family member or neighbor to take you grocery shopping or to medical appointments. If you do drive, be sure your car has the proper tires and has had its winter safety check. Be sure your AAA membership is up to date in case of emergencies.
Power Outages: Winter storms can knock out power so be sure you know where your flashlights and extra batteries are stored. In the event of a short outage, add extra layers of clothing or blankets to keep warm and move around as much as possible to raise your body temperature. For lengthy power outages, make arrangements ahead of time for a place to go, such as to family or friends who have generators or woodstoves.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning from malfunctioning heating equipment, purchase a carbon monoxide detector and regularly check that the batteries are functioning. These detectors are just as important as smoke detectors and are inexpensive to purchase.
Drink Water: During the winter months you may not feel thirsty, but it’s still important to drink lots of water to prevent dehydration, a big risk for seniors. Adequate water intake contributes to better blood circulation, kidney and bowel function, as well as energy.
Watch What You Eat: Eat a healthy diet with a variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables and foods high in Vitamin D, like tuna and salmon, milk and whole grains to keep your immune system operating efficiently. Avoid processed and sugary foods.
Fight the Blues: Shorter daylight hours and less social contact during the winter months can take its toll. Engaging your mind in a variety of pursuits helps ward off the wintertime blues. Join a book club, work on puzzles, pursue a hobby you enjoy, try new recipes, visit the library, plan your springtime garden, and stay in contact with friends and family via telephone, FaceTime or Zoom. At home, keep the blinds and curtains open during the day to let the sun in, and take a short walk outside if the weather permits.
Winter days have their challenges, but with a little preparation you can navigate the season safely, and even more importantly enjoy the coming months.
Shannon Lynch is the Executive Director of The Morrison Communities, which includes the Morrison Skilled Nursing Facility, Sartwell Place Assisted Living, Morrison Rehabilitation, and Summit by Morrison, a senior living community offering independent living, assisted living, memory care and respite care. The Morrison Communities is a non-profit 501©(3) charitable community that has been providing quality healthcare to residents of New Hampshire’s North Country since 1903.