Given the isolation of seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the annual challenges that winter presents, seniors need to be especially prepared for cold weather this year.

Let’s explore some tips that will help make the season happier and healthier.

Winter Health: What Seniors Should Do?

1. Eat healthy foods.

This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and foods fortified with vitamin D. Look for foods rich in vitamin C and those that are good sources of zinc and iron, like spinach and broccoli.

Our immune systems weaken as we age. Therefore, good nutrition becomes doubly important for seniors, especially during the winter season, to help ward off illness.

And only drink alcohol in moderation. In addition to its other effects, alcohol can make you lose body heat.

2. Exercise.

Though getting outside for a walk may be a challenge or even hazardous if streets and sidewalks are icy, there are still ways to stay physically active. Check out this 15-minute sample workout for older adults from Go4Life.

Note: Whenever considering a new exercise program consult your physician first.

3. Manage health conditions.

Problems like thyroid conditions or diabetes can make it harder to stay warm. Also, some medications can effect body heat. Consult with your physician about your concerns this winter. However, continue to stay on top of any chronic condition by correctly taking your medications and following your doctor’s instructions.

4. Stay mentally and socially engaged.

Studies have shown that mental and emotional health are linked to physical health, so seniors should continue to pursue hobbies and interests during the winter months to beat the winter blues. Join an online discussion group or take an online class. You don’t need to leave home to keep learning and exploring.

Though family members may not be able to have face-to-face visits, options like text messages, emails, regular mail, and video conferencing can keep everyone involved and connected.

5. Prepare for bad weather.

Winter storms can create power outages. Make sure you have flashlights and plenty of batteries to avoid stumbling around in the dark. Extra blankets, warm clothes, and a supply of non-perishable food are also important.

Make prior arrangements with a neighbor or family member to remove ice and snow from your outdoor steps, driveway, and walkways. Do not attempt to remove downed tree limbs. If power lines have been damaged by trees or ice, call your utility company.

Avoid driving in poor weather conditions. If you have to drive, let friends or relatives know where you are going and when you expect to return home. Make sure your car is serviced before winter weather arrives. Replace worn windshield wipers, have extra blankets and warm clothes in the car, and take a fully charged cellphone, and a flashlight with fresh batteries along.

6. Stock up on food supplies and other essentials.

This will allow you to minimize trips to the store when the weather turns bad. Also, look into a grocery home delivery service. Many items like pet supplies and medications can also be ordered for delivery as well.

7. Check batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

During the winter months, heating equipment is a leading cause of home fires. Using fireplaces and gas heaters can also lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

As a further precaution, have an inspector check your chimneys and flues on an annual basis.

8. Keep the heat up.

Set your home thermostat no lower than 68 degrees. If you use a space heater, be aware that they can be hazardous. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission provides “7 Highly Effective Portable Heater Safety Habits.”

Never try to heat your home using a gas stove or charcoal grill, or any other device not made for home heating.

9. Know the signs of hypothermia.

Hypothermia signs can include:

  • Cold feet and hands
  • Puffy or swollen face
  • Pale skin
  • Shivering (seniors do not always shiver when cold)
  • Slower than normal speech or slurring words
  • Acting sleepy
  • Being angry or confused

Call 911 if hypothermia is suspected.

What Can Family Members Do?

1. Ask how well your senior is prepared.

You may need to provide or hire some assistance to help your senior loved one get ready for the winter months.

2. Check on your senior frequently.

This is not only a good safety tip for discovering any challenges the senior may be facing, but it’s also a good way to lift the spirits of your senior loved one.

3. Volunteer to run errands for them or assist them in other ways.

Many seniors are reluctant to ask family members for help, so be proactive in anticipating their needs and expressing your desire to help.

4. Discuss severe weather.

Make sure your senior is aware when a deep freeze or heavy snow is about to descend upon them. Encourage them to stay safely inside.

Find more tips to stay healthy all year on our blog!