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Staying Warm in the Winter: 6 Tips for Seniors

As the cold season sets in, seniors must prioritize staying warm as they are more likely to be impacted by colder weather. Preparing your home for the winter is an essential step to ensuring your comfort during the chilly months. While the idea of staying warm seems straightforward, it actually requires multiple steps to complete the process. Explore our six practical tips to help protect your health and safety this season.

1. Adjust the Temperature

Seniors concerned about soaring energy bills in the colder months may be tempted to lower their thermostats more than they should. Maintaining the right indoor temperature is vital to combating winter’s chill and prioritizing your health and comfort. 

According to the National Institute on Aging, about 20% of injuries from exposure to the cold occur in the home. Reduced body fat and muscle mass, poor blood circulation, thinning skin and other physical changes associated with aging can make it harder for seniors to generate and retain body heat. These changes potentially make them more susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia. 

Set your home’s heat to at least 68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit to create a warm and comfortable living space. Even a mildly cool home with temperatures between 60 and 65 degrees puts older adults in danger of hypothermia.

2. Layer Up

Because temperature regulation changes as you age, it’s even more important for seniors to layer up when it’s cold outside. Wearing two or three thinner layers of loose-fitting clothing keeps you warmer than a single layer of thick clothing. Loose layers trap air between clothing to help keep you warm. 

Don’t forget a hat and scarf to prevent losing significant amounts of heat from your head and neck, a scarf to cover your nose and mouth and mittens instead of gloves to keep your hands warmer. Help keep your feet safe from frostbite with warm socks and warm, waterproof boots. Stay dry by wearing a waterproof jacket or coat because wet clothing cools your body quickly. 

Even if you’re staying indoors, dress warmly on cold days. Layer clothes appropriately to adjust your clothing based on your comfort level. Wear socks and slippers to keep your feet warm and cover your head and neck if you feel chilly. 

If you’re sitting, snuggle under a warm blanket and keep your feet up because the temperature is cooler at ground level. While sleeping, use extra covers and/or wear thermal underwear under pajamas and nonslip bed socks to keep you cozy throughout the night.

3. Watch for Side Effects

While everyone needs to watch for any potential side effects from their medications, it’s even more crucial for aging adults who may take more medicines more frequently. Some prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs can impact body temperature regulation or increase your body temperature, making you believe you’re warm when you’re not. 

For example, beta-blockers taken for high blood pressure can impact blood circulation to the extremities, putting you at a higher risk of frostbite. They can also affect your body’s ability to sweat, making you feel warmer than you are and increasing your risk for hypothermia. Medication taken to treat diabetes can impact blood flow that provides warmth to your body, potentially putting seniors at a higher risk for frostbite or hypothermia.

These are just a couple of examples, so continually monitor for side effects, especially if your sensitivity to cold increases. Talk to your doctor about your medications to determine if any affect body heat and what you should do. 

4. Add a Humidifier

While a humidifier doesn’t help you stay warm, it does help alleviate dry air caused by warming your home. Dry air can lead to dry, itchy skin, a scratchy throat, dry eyes and increased asthma and allergy symptoms.

When used properly, a humidifier offers a great way to create an ideal moisture level in the air inside your home. Increasing moisture levels helps alleviate dry skin, respiratory irritation and nosebleeds and can help promote proper hydration, which is often challenging for seniors to maintain.

Older bodies retain less water, and seniors often don’t feel thirsty, as thirst diminishes with age. While hot summer temperatures offer a helpful reminder to drink more liquids, it’s easier to forget vital liquid intake in the colder winters when dehydration risk can actually be greater. Adding a humidifier inside your home helps maintain your body’s hydration by keeping moisture in the atmosphere. 

5. Keep Moving

Staying active helps seniors stay warm and improves their physical fitness and overall well-being in the winter and year-round. Exercise also helps improve your mood, helping you overcome those wintertime blues. Keep your blood flowing with moderately intense exercise for about 2.5 hours weekly. 

Take appropriate precautions before heading outdoors in the winter months for some much-needed exercise and vitamin D from the sun. Bundle up, choose shoes with good traction, avoid icy conditions and prioritize a thorough warm-up to stretch muscles and prevent injury. Also, consider using the buddy system and/or a medical alert system to ensure you have help if needed. 

When it’s too cold or otherwise unsafe to exercise outdoors, stay active indoors to generate some heat and enjoy numerous physical, mental, emotional and social benefits. Independent Living communities have various fitness-related activities that make it easier to keep moving in the winter and throughout the year. 

6. Be Prepared

Winter can be unpredictable, so it’s essential for seniors to be prepared for any unforeseen circumstances. Develop an emergency plan with contact information for neighbors, family members and emergency services. Ensure your home is stocked with essentials such as non-perishable food, medications and warm blankets in case you get snowbound or lose power. Having a plan in place provides peace of mind for you and your loved ones and ensures you’re ready to face any challenges that winter may throw your way.

We’re Always Here for Support

Although this isn’t an all-inclusive list, these tips help seniors plan ahead and mitigate risks from cold weather. Winter can be challenging for many older adults, with barriers to staying physically and socially active to prevent boredom and feelings of isolation. Moving to an Independent Living community provides a warm, safe environment away from many of the hazards of colder weather. 

We never close at Wichita Presbyterian Manor, and our caregivers are fully prepared to help with your care needs. This includes never having to worry about shoveling snow or potentially slipping on an icy walkway. Our team's ability to be proactive in unforeseen scenarios, like inclement weather, means the families we serve can rest assured that their loved ones are well cared for. Contact us at 316-942-7456 to schedule a tour today!

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