The winter makes everyone feel a little more sluggish than usual with the cold weather and short days. Every person out there is going to give the same advice: stay physical, eat well and if you feel depressed, seek out natural sunlight in the day and reach out to friends and family. You can workout at home, balance, stretch and go for walks, but this advice is true for anytime of the year. Here’s what you need to know about preparing for winter:
Grippy Footwear for Snow and Ice
Historically, people had to stock up and prepare for winter. They cut extra wood, stored extra food, and made sure they had the proper clothing ready. What was true then is still true, but in a different sense.
- Stock up on food that preserves well and store food in your freezer, especially vegetables.
- Keep rock salt and a small shovel next to your door for easy use. A small shovel ensures you don’t try to move to much snow at once. A push broom might be ample for porches and stairs. Then, throw down some rock salt to reduce icing and increase grip.
- Keep grippy boots by your door so you remember to wear them. There are affordable snow and ice traction products available that fit onto shoes to make them perform better in slippery conditions (my aunt with poor balance swears by them). We know seniors are at risk for falling, so every precaution should be taken.
Heavy Coats are Overlooked
Not all of us have someone else reminding us to put on a warm coat before making a “quick trip” outside, like grabbing the newspaper. According to the CDC, more than half of hypothermia-related deaths were of people over the age of 65. Warm coats might look ridiculous, but they can save your life. Gloves, scarfs and hats are always helpful. The more skin you cover the better off you will be, but warmth starts with a proper coat.
Inside the home, we’d like to remind everyone that a SPACE HEATER ISN’T A PROPER REPLACEMENT FOR A PROPERLY INSULATED HOME. According to the NFPA, space heaters, not Christmas Lights, are the leading cause of home fires from December to February.
“In 2010, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 57,100 reported U.S. home structure fires, with associated losses of 490 civilian deaths, 1,540 civilian injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage. These fires accounted for 16% of all reported home fires.”
Hire someone to help insulate your house so you don’t need to waste energy or put yourself in harms way. Also, test smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure a heater doesn’t become a problem.
Winter Driving Means Night Driving
Winter driving is hazardous in general. Seniors are cautious with icy road conditions or they are wise enough to avoid it altogether. Still, a AAA membership doesn’t hurt and making sure the car has had a tuneup to ensure good oil, tires, battery and wipers will provide peace of mind. Because of the way we treat roads in Colorado, keep windshield washer fluid in your car in case it runs out.
The real danger for seniors is in the increased potential for night driving as a result of the shorter days. Triple AAA has a few good pointers that aren’t exactly common sense:
- Keep your eyes moving. Do not focus on the middle of the area illuminated by your headlights. Watch for sudden flashes of light at hilltops, around curves or at intersections, because these may indicate the presence of oncoming vehicles.
- Look at the sides of objects. In dim light, focus on the edges or outlines of objects. Your eyes can pick up images more sharply this way than by looking directly at the object.
- Avoid being blinded by oncoming high beams. If the driver of an oncoming vehicle fails to dim the lights, look down toward the right side of the road to avoid being blinded. You should be able to see the edge of the lane or the painted edge line and stay on course until the vehicle passes.
…And Everything Else
Fresh batteries, flashlights and a battery powered radio can help get you through a power outage. For everything else, the CDC has a comprehensive checklist of supplies for winter preparedness that is useful.
Most importantly, seniors shouldn’t be alone for long periods of time in the winter. They need to stay active and engaged. The holidays are just around the corner, but this time of year doesn’t mean the same thing for all of us. The holidays are great with friends and family around, but sometimes, seniors aren’t so fortunate. As we age the chances of friends and loved ones passing away increases leaving memories and an empty space. Some seniors are at risk, but loneliness isn’t a guarantee. Elderly family members with special needs can blend into the hubbub of happy family gathering. To make sure they are included and taken care of during the holidays, it helps to plan and coordinate ahead of time.
There are an abundance of options in Denver for keeping seniors active and healthy throughout the winter. We don’t just encourage these activities, we can also help make them possible with transportation and assistance.
Most seniors understand the beauty of the outdoors, they were the generation that practically invented all of our outdoor sports. With a few safety precautions and a little encouragement, the outdoors are a great way to stave off the winter blues. Most of us avoid cold weather if we can, but when you have someone around you to encourage you to bundle up to take a walk in the park, you quickly understand the allure. The winter is a beautiful time of year. The cold air is fresh and crisp and since no one else is out and about, its quiet. Getting outside with the sun shining and taking in the fresh air is good for everyone. The outdoors can provide the perfect balance of stimulation and tranquility. A walk in the park or a drive in the car to see Christmas decorations is a great way to get out of the house and do something a little different during the holidays.
Most of us were born wailing for the attention of our mother, and as we get older we aren’t as different from that as we’d like to think. Introversion doesn’t apply to close friends and family, we need intimacy. We make sure loss of physical ability doesn’t also decrease social activity. Keeping in touch with friends and family through visiting and whatever other means necessary is crucial throughout the dark winter months.
Brightening up an elderly loved one’s holiday is matter of understanding what you can do and then taking the time to do it. An easy way to start is to ask about the past. Recent events might not come easily, but with a photo album or family video, those long term memories will become clear as day. These conversations are some of the best parts of the holidays. Adult children learn facets of their history they may have forgotten or never knew. Grandchildren will enrich their relationships and get a perspective of their family’s history.
Checkout a Senior Center
Senior centers are an underutilized asset of your local community. They are one of those places that people might resist going to because they don’t want to feel old, or maybe they don’t want to feel like an outsider, but once they go, they wonder why they didn’t get there sooner. We’ve put together a post as a resource Denver senior centers so you can learn more.
With all of the story telling, strolls down memory lane and other commotion, the holidays can be taxing. Staying up late, waking up early and not taking a moment to decompress can catch up to everyone. Plan downtime and stay close to their normal routine. And, maybe you’ll remember to get a little nap in as well. A little R&R is great, but there is a great social aspect to participating in the setup, cooking and cleanup that is perpetual during the holidays. Make sure you don’t leave your elders sitting idly by, they probably don’t want to anyways. The holidays can be a great time a year, but they definitely require some foresight and planning. If you’d like a set of extra helping hands, our home caregivers can make sure your holidays are stress free and warm.