Winter is the season to spend time with loved ones, decorate for the holidays and to spend cozy days inside. It's also a time that can be risky for seniors who should be advised to slow down just a bit. Here are a few winter safety tips for seniors:
The days of hours spent shoveling snow off the driveway are behind you. Even if you feel physically up to the challenge, know that shoveling snow is a well-recorded trigger for heart attacks.
The cold weather combined with strenuous work can hamper your breathing, increase your blood pressure and lead to cardiac arrest. In fact, doctors recommend anyone over the age of 55 skip shoveling altogether and outsource the job. Ask younger family members to help you, or, even better, get in touch with a snow shoveling service that will come after each storm to shovel and salt your walkways.
Get your car serviced
"You should also take some time to prepare for a roadside emergency."
If you drive, take your car into the shop at the beginning of the winter season to make sure everything's in order. Early winter is a great time to get your oil changed, tires rotated, battery checked and squeaky brakes fixed once and for all. It may feel like a chore, but it's a far better option to be proactive with your vehicle than to find yourself stranded during a cold snap in January.
You should also take some time to prepare for a roadside emergency – get a safety kit together to put in your trunk, complete with jumper cables, a flashlight, batteries and other essentials. You can buy pre-assembled kits online or at hardware stores to save yourself some effort. Winter is also an opportune time to make sure you have up-to-date service at hand such as AARP or AAA to help you in a pinch.
Dress warmly in the winter months. It may seem like common sense, but as we age, many seniors find they get cold more easily. Even on those warmer winter days, dress in layers to protect yourself from cold winds. Light layers with a thick sweater on top, as well as a warm coat with hat and gloves, can make a world of difference. It's better to err on the side of caution in the winter. It's easier to remove a sweater or scarf inside or in the car than it is to deal with freezing hands because you opted to leave your gloves at home.
Get your flu shot
Have you gotten your flu shot? If not, don't put it off. Winter is a peak time for the flu, so be prepared. If you haven't experienced the flu in the past several years, you should know that the virus can become more severe as you age, with more severe symptoms that go on for longer. While the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone over 6 months of age get a flu shot each year, the organization makes it clear that it's vital for those over 65 to get a shot each year.
What used to put you out of commission for a few days may now land you in the hospital. Don't take the risk – head to your doctor or a local pharmacy as soon as possible to get yourself taken care of.
Wouldn't you rather stay in your warm, cozy home than head to a grocery store during a snowstorm? Stock your pantry with your favorite canned soups, pasta and sauces, canned vegetables, granola bars, cereals and other nonperishables so you won't have to leave the house on the coldest or snowiest days.
If you find yourself homebound for more than a day, make sure your family and friends know so they can drop by to visit you to keep the cabin fever at bay, or to bring you fresh supplies. Now is not the time to take an adventurous drive on black ice or on days with low visibility. Instead, relax indoors with a book or movie while you sip tea and watch the snow fall outside your frosty windows.