Four tips to help seniors keep safe this winter

When the winter air is crisp, the ground covered with snow and the sun shining, a walk outdoors with your spouse, a friend or your canine buddy is a wonderful way to enjoy the beauty of the season. But for seniors to truly enjoy staying active through the winter and avoid being cooped up indoors, it’s important to take sensible precautions to avoid seasonal hazards–like a bad fall or hypothermia—that can have long-term consequences.

Adapt to the cold like a Swede

Although casualties resulting from heat waves get more publicity, cold weather is responsible for 17 times as many deaths as hot weather, according to a study in The Lancet. Surprisingly, people living in countries with relatively mild winters fared worse than those in countries with frigid winters, such as Sweden and Canada. That’s likely because we adapt better to winter than Australians, for example, by building warmer homes, wearing suitable winter clothes and taking other safety measures to protect against undue exposure to cold, which increases the risk of blood clots and higher blood pressure that cause heart attacks and strokes.

Here are four basic winter safety tips:

1. Walk securely to prevent falls. The Canada Safety Council recommends you choose good winter boots that are well-insulated and waterproof, with a thick, non-slip tread rubber sole and wide low heels. Consider using a cane or walker to help with balance.

Winter hiking. Lens flare, shallow depth of field.2. Protect against hypothermia and frostbite. Older adults are more susceptible to hypothermia, or dangerously low body temperature, because they have a slower metabolism and produce less body heat. To protect against hypothermia and frostbite, wear a hat, scarf and gloves or mittens, and several layers of warm, loose clothing to trap warm air between layers. Avoid extreme cold, high winds and wet clothes.

3. Be heart smart. The Public Health Agency of Canada advises that when strenuous exercise and cold weather are combined, a person’s blood pressure and heart rate can climb, and heart attack risk is greater. Ask your doctor if shoveling snow is safe for you and if you choose to shovel, take precautions to avoid straining your heart.

4. Prevent fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. Fireplaces, wood and gas stoves, and gas appliances need to be properly vented, cleaned and used, or they can leak dangerous amounts of carbon dioxide. These and other appliances, such as space heaters, can also be fire hazards. Place smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in strategic places.

If you’re looking for a staycation from winter that involves no snow shovelling or navigating slippery roads or sidewalks to travel to fitness classes or social events, consider booking a winter stay at a Chartwell retirement residence. In addition to a spacious suite, you can benefit from delicious prepared meals, access to all on-site activities and events, transportation services, and even the availability of à la carte wellness services like hairdressing, spa services and more. Use our “Find a Residence” search feature to find the home closest to you.