Winter outdoor safety for seniors

Winter Outdoor Safety for Seniors

In Health, Inspiration by Companions for Seniors

The winter months can be a great opportunity to cozy up indoors — or go out and explore! 

For seniors across the country, life doesn’t slow down just because the temperature is dropping outside. For active, independent seniors, winter can be an amazing time to go out and enjoy all that their communities have to offer — from seeing holiday light shows, to catching up with family and friends, to taking a walk around the neighborhood and enjoying the sights and sounds of freshly fallen snow. 

If you have a senior loved one who wants to go out and enjoy the winter season, it’s important to focus on their safety! With snow, ice, and freezing temperatures, winter weather can pose a serious health hazard to seniors, who are more susceptible to hypothermia, frostbite, and accidents than younger adults. 

What can you do to make sure your elderly loved one is able to stay warm, safe, and comfortable, while enjoying an active winter? Here are five important winter safety tips for seniors to keep in mind, all season long: 

Dress for Comfort and Safety

Dressing for warmth is one of the most essential things that seniors can do to protect themselves from the very real threat of hypothermia, a serious condition that occurs when a person’s body temperature gets dangerously low. As the National Institute on Aging points out, hypothermia can lead to “many health problems, such as a heart attack, kidney problems, liver damage, or worse.” 

Seniors are also at risk of experiencing frostbite, which occurs when the body experiences damage to the skin from extreme cold. 

Be sure to help your loved one bundle up and protect their most vulnerable areas! Here are a few clothing guidelines to keep in mind when helping a senior dress for winter weather: 

  • Dress in layers, such as two or three layers of loose-fitting clothing
  • Cover up as much skin as possible, to avoid frostbite
  • Look for outerwear that is waterproof, as damp clothing can make cold weather feel even worse 
  • Always wear a winter hat and scarf, to prevent heat loss from the head and neck. Scarves can also be used to cover the mouth and nose, to protect the lungs from frigid winter air
  • Wear gloves or mittens, to protect the extremities
  • Change out of damp or wet clothes as quickly as possible
  • Wear warm socks and winter boots with lots of traction and support

Avoid Icy Slips and Falls

Slip and fall accidents are among the most common hazards facing seniors — and the wet, slippery winter weather only increases the likelihood of experiencing a bad fall. Help your loved one take precautions to stay safe from slipping all winter long:

  • Make sure there is a path free of snow and ice on the porch, steps, and walkway before the senior attempts to go outside 
  • Salt walkways before snow storms to help reduce ice buildup 
  • Make sure seniors have sturdy boots with non-slip soles
  • Replace the rubber tips on canes and walkers, to help provide additional traction 
  • Place door mats around the entrance to your loved one’s home, and have everyone take off wet shoes as soon as possible, to help prevent water and icy slush from spreading on the floors and creating potential hazards

Be Safe During Winter Activities

If your senior loved one is a snow bunny, make sure that they know their limits and take care to protect themselves during their favorite outdoor activities. Whether the older adult in your life loves walking through the neighborhood, throwing snowballs with the grandkids, or shoveling the drive, it’s important to make sure that seniors put their health and safety first: 

  • Take plenty of breaks when doing strenuous activities like playing with kids or shoveling snow
  • Drink plenty of fluids and stay hydrated
  • Keep up a healthy, balanced diet
  • Before going outside, apply sunscreen to protect the skin from glare — even on cloudy days 
  • Make sure your loved one has a companion if they go on walks; in other cases, make sure that they have easy access to a cell phone or medical alert device, in case of an accident
  • Always check the weather conditions before going outside, and try to avoid going outdoors on particularly cold or wet days

Have Emergency Supplies Ready to Go

While winter weather can be beautiful, it can also cause conditions that can become very dangerous in the blink of an eye. Make sure your senior friends and family members are prepared for the worst of the winter weather by helping them stock some winter preparedness kits ahead of time. 

Depending on your loved one’s wants and needs, it may help to keep one kit stashed in an accessible place in their home, and one in their primary vehicle (that may mean your car, or the vehicles of any other family caregivers who regularly offer rides to the senior). You may also want to keep a basic first aid kit with you when you go on outings with the senior, as well as hand warmers and other cold weather supplies. 

Need some inspiration? Here are a few items you may want to add to your senior’s winter readiness kit: 

  • Extra blankets 
  • Extra sets of warm clothes 
  • Flashlight
  • Candles (with matches)
  • Water
  • Dried or canned foods 
  • Extra batteries
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Road-ready supplies for the car, such as road salt, shovel, windshield wiper, jumper cables, tire chains, maps, cell phone charger, and so on

Get Some Additional Support

A long, cold winter can be a serious challenge — both for seniors, and for the family caregivers who love them. Remember, you don’t have to go through the winter months alone! There are lots of ways to get your loved one some additional help and support, and many resources out there ready to step in and help make things easier. 

For instance, you could go around to your senior loved one’s neighbors and provide them with your senior’s phone number, so they can check in during bad weather. You may be surprised by how enthusiastic the community will be about lending a hand! There are also many community centers that open their doors to older adults during particularly cold days. You could also look into local service providers that make it easier for seniors to manage on the worst winter days, including shoveling services and meal delivery services.

Finally, this winter may be a great time to look into home care for your senior loved one. Flexible and affordable, home care can empower the elderly adult in your life to age in place in the comfort and safety of home, allowing them to remain independent while getting the social, emotional, and physical support they need to thrive. A senior companion can step in and make winter easier for older adults by offering: 

We’re Here to Help

Want to talk about what the winter months may mean for your elderly loved ones? Looking for professional help in caring for your aging family members as the winter chill sets in? We’re always here and ready to help! Don’t hesitate to get in touch with Companions for Seniors to discuss the best plan of action for you and your family.

Our companions are bonded and trained, and can help your family shoulder some of the responsibilities of caring for an aging loved one. We are locally owned and operated in Chicago, with clients in the city and suburbs.

We help provide seniors with a higher quality of life, while also offering respite and peace of mind for a family caregiver who might need some support. Our companions help stimulate our clients physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, empowering them to live an active and enriched lifestyle in the comfort and safety of home. 

Have any more questions? Ready to get started? Get in touch online using our handy online portal, or give us a call at 866-910-9020 today.