With a chill in the air and snow blanketing the ground, you can be sure that it’s finally winter. While winter can pose its own challenges, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the season safely, healthily, and enjoyably.
Cold Weather Safety Tips for Seniors
Cold temperatures can be uncomfortable for most people, but dangerous for older adults. Because their bodies may have less fat and lose heat faster than a younger person, it’s important for seniors to keep themselves warm during the winter.
What is hypothermia?
First, know the symptoms of hypothermia, a condition that can occur when a person’s body temperature dips below 95 degrees. It can lead to serious problems like a heart attack, kidney damage, and more. Be on the lookout for:
- Cold feet and hands
- Puffy or swollen face
- Pale skin or lips
- Shivering (although this does not always occur)
- Acting unusually sleepy, angry, or confused
Later signs of hypothermia include trouble walking, a slow heartbeat, shallow breathing, or losing consciousness.
If you or a loved one exhibit these symptoms, call 911 right away.
How to prevent hypothermia
The best way to avoid hypothermia is by being prepared. Whether indoors or out, dress in layers to keep warm, and wear a hat, gloves, and heavy socks to keep extremities from getting cold.
Inside, keep your home’s temperature between 68-70 degrees. Setting the temperature at even 65 degrees or cooler can set the stage for hypothermia.
If you do go outdoors, be prepared. Limit your exposure, and again, dress in plenty of layers. Tell a friend or family member where you’re going, and carry a cell phone or other device so you can call for help if you need it.
Finally, if you know a loved one is alone during the winter, check in with them at least daily. Make sure their home is at a warm temperature and that they have plenty of supplies.
Related: Outdoor walking tips for seniors >>
How to Stay Healthy During the Winter
Staying safe is one thing, but how do you stay healthy when it’s too cold to go outside and too snowy to get exercise? Not to worry; there are plenty of ways to stay feeling your best during these months.
Getting exercise during the winter
Although you might not be feeling motivated to get exercise when it’s cold outside and gets dark earlier, there are plenty of reasons to continue. Exercise can boost your energy, mood, and metabolism – and depending on what you do, it can be a great opportunity to socialize.
Just remember – always check with your doctor before trying a new exercise. They can help you choose a fitness routine that works for you.
- If it’s a warmer day and there’s no snow or ice on the ground, bundle up in at least three layers, choose shoes with plenty of traction, and take a walk around the block.
- If you usually go to the gym, keep up the good work! Invite a friend to work out with you and enjoy catching up at the same time.
- If you don’t usually go to a gym or the weather prohibits it, try working out at home. Simple exercises or workout videos, combined with your favorite music, make getting physical activity easy and fun.
Healthy foods to try this winter
If you indulged a little over the holidays, you’re not alone. Winter can be a great time to reset your eating habits, because contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of delicious and healthful fruits and vegetables available during this season. Try out one of the following foods and enjoy health benefits in addition to a delicious taste.
- Citrus fruit – For a boost of vitamin C, try some of the sunny citrus that’s at its peak in the winter (like oranges, clementines, and grapefruit).
- Winter squash – Explore varieties like acorn, butternut, or delicata for a boost of vitamin A.
- Leafy greens – Brussels sprouts, collard greens, and kale all provide fiber and folate.
Finally, remember to stay hydrated this season. Drink plenty of water, and choose foods with high water content (like some of those mentioned above) to keep yourself feeling your best.
You may also like: The best wellness apps for your smartphone >>
Mental wellness for the winter
After the joy and family time of the holidays, the rest of winter can seem to drag on. And if you live in a cold climate with little sunlight, you might be feeling the effects of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
First, know that feeling down during the winter is very common. You certainly aren’t alone in these feelings, and it’s important to check with your doctor if you think you might be experiencing SAD. They can prescribe medication as well as suggest lifestyle changes that could help.
Even if you aren’t diagnosed with SAD, following similar tips to keep yourself mentally well during this season can go a long way in making you feel your best.
- Get plenty of exercise. We’ve already mentioned this above – and that’s because it works. Physical activity can help alleviate stress and make you feel good about yourself.
- Soak up the sun. Low vitamin D levels can lead to feelings of sluggishness in the winter. Sit near a sunny window, take a walk, or talk to your doctor about other ways to get more vitamin D.
- Schedule time with family and friends. You don’t have to go through the season in isolation, and chances are others are looking for time to socialize as well. Make a date to get coffee or lunch, or just meet up to chat.
- Embrace the season for what it is. The Danish concept of hygge – enjoying the season in cozy comfort with loved ones – has become wildly popular in recent years. Take a cue from our European friends and try some of their ideas.
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