Every year, approximately 1,200 Americans will die as a result of cold weather. Natural disasters may get far more media attention, but the winter cold is nearly ten times as deadly as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, lighting, and severe storms combined. Colder temperatures come with a variety of health risks and hazards that you should be aware of — especially for seniors. Below you can learn about the annual dangers brought about by colder temperatures, and what senior winter safety precautions you can take to help older adults stay safe.
Get Flu Shots
The flu is significantly more dangerous for people over the age of 65. As we age, our immune system weakens. That’s why during any given flu season, nearly nine out of ten flu-related deaths belong to the 65+ age group. The same is true for about half of all flu-related hospitalizations. If you want to ensure the health and safety of your loved ones through the winter months, your best bet is a flu vaccine.
For many, winter months bring ice, snow, sleet, and other ways to slip and fall. For a senior citizen, these types of falls can easily lead to a major injury, including head trauma, hip fractures, and lacerations. In fact, simple falls are the leading cause of injury for older Americans. It’s estimated that every 20 minutes, one older adult will die from a fall, and one fall injury is treated every 13 seconds. Fortunately, solving this problem is as easy as shoveling any necessary walkways. It is great exercise, and you could save someone from suffering a serious injury.
Falling down and catching the flu aren’t the only dangers of winter to be wary of. Faced with the long, dark, and icy winter months, many seniors are less able to get the socialization they need. This makes them prone to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Because seniors are already at increased risk for depression, it’s important to check in with them on a regular basis. Checking in is also a good safety precaution in case a heater breaks, or a little help is otherwise needed.
About half of all hypothermia related deaths belong to the 65-and-older age group. That’s why it’s important to ensure that seniors are adequately protected from the winter weather. Colder temperatures are best beaten with multiple layers of clothes, including socks, a thick coat, a scarf, a pair of insulated gloves, and a warm hat. For keeping warm indoors, it’s worth knowing that many states can provide needy older adults with assistance for their heating costs, as well as home weatherization.
Prepare for Outages
Power Outages are a common result of winter storms. To be prepared for an outage, be sure your loved ones have access to flashlights, and at least one reliable communication device. For those who have given up land lines for cellphones, be sure to prepare a car charger to ensure that phones can remain charged. Many people also suggest adding a battery-powered radio to your preparedness kit, which can help provide alerts about when the power might be restored.
Even if you don’t save a life by shoveling a walkway or checking in for a moment, a few minutes out of your day is all it takes to help out an older adult this winter. These elderly winter safety tips might seem like simple precautions, but they can make all the difference in the world to the seniors in your life.
Do you have any suggestions for helping older adults this winter? Please share them with us in the comments below.