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Keeping Our Seniors Safe This Winter

Keeping Our Seniors Safe This Winter
Christine Kijek

Aging makes us more vulnerable to many things, especially in the winter. Cold temperatures bring challenges to seniors, such as hypothermia (low body temperature), frostbite, and falls.   

Senior citizens can lose body heat much faster than younger adults and are often unaware of lost body heat, which can be very dangerous. Hypothermia, or a body temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, can cause health problems that include:   

1. Hypothermia

If your house is cold, you can suffer from hypothermia as well. If a loved one resides in an extended care facility, it is important to note the temperature of their room. If it feels cold, it is important that they dress warmly. Spending an extended period outside increases the risk of hypothermia.   

Signs of Hypothermia

Early signs of hypothermia include - 

Tips to avoid Hypothermia

  • Stay indoors on very cold days.  
  • Set the indoor temperature to 65 degrees or warmer.  
  • Shut doors of unused rooms and keep them closed.  
  • Place a towel or draft stopper at the bottom of the doors.  
  • Keep blinds and curtains closed.  
  • Dress warmly (consider layering clothing)  
  • Change wet clothing.  
  • Wear socks and slippers.  
  • If you need to go out in cold weather, wear a hat, gloves, scarf, coat, and boots.  
  • Be sure you have warm blankets on the bed.  
  • If you lose power, stay with a friend/relative that has power.  
  • AVOID space heaters (these are a fire hazard)  

2. Frostbite

Frostbite damages the skin when exposed to extreme cold. It affects the areas farthest from the heart where blood flow or circulation is slower such as fingers, toes, ears, and nose, and can lead to the loss of limbs.

Early Signs of Frostbite

The signs of frostbite include:  

  • White/gray skin color  
  • Pain  
  • Hard skin  
  • Numbness   

To avoid Frostbite

  • Keep your skin covered when out in the extreme cold 
  • Only go out for short periods 

If frostbite occurs, warm the area with warm water. Never use hot water.   

Preventing Hazards

Tips to help avoid this hazard include

3. Fire & Carbon Monoxide

Another hazard for seniors to consider is fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a gas that has no smell. During cold winters, many seek alternative ways to heat their homes, which may be less expensive. Common heating sources include:  

  • Fireplace 
  • Natural gas  
  • Kerosene 

Space heaters pose a serious fire hazard.

These appliances should be maintained, vented properly, and cleaned regularly. They should be kept away from furniture, curtains, and other flammables.  

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:  

  • Headache  
  • Weakness  
  • Dizziness  
  • Confusion  
  • Blurred vision  
  • Nausea and vomiting  
  • Loss of consciousness  

If you have these symptoms, go out into the fresh air and seek medical care.   

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

To reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, here are some tips:  

  • Install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.  
  • Be sure space heaters have placed a minimum of 3 feet from anything that can catch fire.  
  • Clean and inspect chimneys and fireplace flues annually. 
  • Never use a gas stove, charcoal grill, or other heating sources not made for indoor use.  

4. Falls

Winter weather can pose a real hazard to seniors. Falls are dangerous any time of the year, but the risk increases due to inclement weather and ice. Seniors are fragile, and any trouble with balance or thinning bones can turn a fall into a major injury or health risk.

Reducing Chances of Fall

Tips to reduce the risk of a fall include:

  • Be sure walkways and steps are clear of snow and ice before walking.  
  • Wet pavement may be icy.  
  • Be sure salt and sand have been spread before walking.  
  • Hire someone to clear, salt, and sand for you.   
  • Wear snow boots with non-skid treads to avoid slipping.  
  • Be sure the tip of your cane has a good rubber tip. Once worn, the risk of slipping increases. 

Lastly, shoveling snow can strain your heart if you have heart disease. In cold weather, the heart works harder to keep you warm. Add the shoveling strain, and your heart incident risk increases greatly. It is best to hire someone to manage snow removal for you.   

Keeping our seniors safe in winter should be a high priority. If you have an elderly neighbor, consider clearing their walkway for them. Offer to pick something up at the store while you’re out. Be kind and help them out.   


Disclaimer: All content found on our website, including images, videos, infographics, and text were created solely for informational purposes. Our reviewed content should never be used for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment of any medical conditions. Content shared on our websites is not meant to be used as a substitute for advice from a certified medical professional. Reliance on the information provided on our website as a basis for patient treatment is solely at your own risk. We urge all our customers to always consult a physician or a certified medical professional before trying or using a new medical product.


HPFY Christine Kijek

Christine Kijek

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Christine Kijek is a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. She has completed courses for wound and ostomy specialty and has 20 years of experience. She has been ...

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