Cold Weather Challenges for Seniors

The New Year 2018 rolled in with a blast of frigid weather. While most individuals can tolerate the cold, older adults are at risk of serious health concerns in freezing temperatures. Seniors lose body heat more quickly than the general population, and a low body temperature can lead to kidney problems, liver damage and heart issues. In addition, individuals with Diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Dementia or Thyroid disease often have difficulty keeping warm. This increases their need for attention in cold weather.

The CDC reports that adults over age 65 are at a higher risk of death due to hypothermia. This occurs when the body temperature falls below 95 degrees. Symptoms of Hypothermia include cold feet and hands, swollen face, pale skin, uncontrolled shivering, slurred speech, sleepiness and increased confusion. Be aware that these symptoms can occur very quickly, and can lead to serious health consequences.

Seniors hoping to save money may turn their heat down, causing a cold house and possible risk for hypothermia. In freezing temperatures, make sure your older relatives and neighbors keep the thermostat at 68 degrees or higher. Pay attention to space heaters that may cause fires or carbon monoxide poisoning. Keep heaters away from curtains or furniture to avoid the risk of fire. And, be sure to purchase space heaters that will turn off if tipped over.

Other tips for keeping safe and warm in frigid temperatures include:

  1. Dress in loose layers to avoid frostbite and hypothermia. Always wear a hat and gloves when outside. Cover all exposed skin.
  2. Prepare for power outages with flashlights, a battery-powered radio, warm blankets and non-perishable food and water.
  3. Prevent Carbon Monoxide poisoning with gas detectors throughout the house.
  4. Place a rolled towel at the base of doors to prevent cold drafts.
  5. Dress warmly, even when inside the house. Wear slippers and even a hat, if necessary.
  6. Limit the consumption of alcoholic beverages, as alcohol causes a loss of body heat.
  7. Keep blinds and curtains closed to keep heat inside.
  8. Ward off loneliness and isolation with phone calls and social media, if able.