Cold Weather Safety Tips for Seniors

Cold Weather Safety Tips for Seniors

The holidays are upon us and with them comes the inevitable cold weather.  The extreme temps affect us all, but seniors are more vulnerable to the cold and need to take some extra precautions to stay safe.  We’ve put together a few tips and tricks for seniors to stay safe and healthy this winter.  Feel free to share it with any seniors you may have in your life!

  • Remember, seniors are more vulnerable to cold weather. They can lose body heat more quickly, and are at greater risk of hypothermia.  For more information on seniors and hypothermia risks, read this great booklet from the National Institute on Aging.  And keep this crucial information in mind from

“Older people tend to shiver less or not at all when their body temperature drops.”

  • Dress in thin layers.  “Wearing 2 or 3 thinner layers of loose-fitting clothing is warmer than a single layer of thick clothing.”  Layering can help ward off hypothermia when seniors are going to be outdoors for extended periods of time.
  • Be prepared while traveling. Make sure to keep an extra blanket in the car.  You never know when extenuating circumstances may necessitate pulling over and turning off the car – and cutting off the heat supply.
  • Protect your skin.  Seniors need to keep their skin moisturized, especially in the winter time.  As the Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens, Inc. points out on their Cold Weather Tips for Seniors,

“As we age our skin becomes thinner and drier, thus more prone to tears. Keep the dangers of dryness low by using a humidifier to keep your air moist, drink plenty of water and eat foods high in water content like soups and vegetables, and moisturize your skin daily with creams and lotions.”

  • Protect yourself from slipping on the ice. Choose shoes with good traction and consider a cane tip like this one when walking outdoors in the winter.
  • Combat social isolation. Make sure to stay connected with friends and family.  The days are shorter and the dreary weather can cause some people to feel depressed or sad.  It’s hard for some seniors to travel in the winter, but modern technology can bring people together from the safety and warmth of their own living rooms. 

While getting around and staying warm can be difficult for everyone during the winter months, seniors face unique challenges. However, it’s not necessary to go into hibernation for the next six months. These six winter weather tips can help seniors weather the weather this season.

1. Sidestep Slips and Falls

Falls are a major threat to senior health. From injuries sustained during these accidents to subsequent complications, spills on snow and ice can have dire consequences for seniors. For optimal traction, make sure your aging loved one is outfitted with solid shoes featuring non-skid soles. If he walks with a cane, meanwhile, replacing a well-worn cane tip offers an added level of slip-proof security.

Winter weather can also lead to in-home falls for seniors who inadvertently track snow and ice inside with them. Use a doormat to to prevent moisture from accumulating on hardwood floors, and encourage your loved one to remove his shoes immediately upon entering his home.

When the weather outside is truly treacherous, hibernation — at least the temporary kind — can be a smart safety measure.

2. Dress for the Weather

Because of lower metabolic rates, poor circulation and other factors, seniors are particularly susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia. In fact, the CDC reveals that people over the age of 65 account for 52 percent of all hypothermia-related deaths.

Wearing warm layers — including a heavy coat, wool socks, and adequate outerwear accessories — is an essential part of winter weather dressing. When temperatures dip to extreme lows, make sure to keep all exposed skin covered and use a scarf to help protect the lungs from harsh air. If your aging loved one’s body temperature drops below 95 degrees, seek immediate medical attention.

3. Practice Good Storm Sense

Unfortunately, power outages can be a fact of life in winter. Make sure your aging loved one’s living space is stocked with everything he needs to make it through several days without power. Flashlights, a battery-powered radio, warm blankets, non-perishable foods, and bottled water are all cold weather essentials. For a comprehensive list of emergency storm supplies, check out the CDC’s useful Winter Weather Checklist. If you’re not able to check on an aging loved one who lives alone in the days following a storm, enlist the help of a local friend or neighbor to stop by on your behalf.

If your loved one still drives, perform a pre-winter car check to ensure that it’s up for traveling on wintry roads. Consult FEMA’s “Winterize Your Vehicle” guide for details.

4. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention

Various heating methods, including gas heaters, fireplaces, and even lanterns, can all lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure your aging loved one’s carbon monoxide detector is in good condition with working batteries intact.

5. Mental Health Matters

While much of the conversation focuses on the physical health and safety of seniors in winter, mental health is equally important. Winter weather can lead to increased incidences of isolation, which can in turn cause depression. Make sure your aging loved one has an adequate support system of family members, friends and neighbors. If face-to-face contact isn’t possible, digital communications can bridge the gap.

6. Fight the Flu

Because the immune system weakens with age, seniors are particularly vulnerable to the flu. In fact, the CDC estimates that as many as 90 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths occur in people over the age of 65. The flu shot offers a simple yet effective way to protect your aging loved one from flu-related complications.

While earlier is better, it’s never too late to safeguard seniors from the flu. Also, because the virus changes every year and immunity wanes with time, annual flu shots ensure the best possible protection.

While winter’s arrival can be an overwhelming time for seniors, advance planning and preparation ensure optimal safety and wellbeing while offering invaluable peace of mind — both for seniors and the people who love them.

Key Takeaways

  • Winter weather challenges are amplified for seniors due to age-related complications.
  • Safeguarding senior health in winter involves factoring in both physical and mental health concerns.
  • Making preparations before winter weather sets in ensures that seniors will be more than ready by winter’s arrival.

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