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MAIN Arrow to Home LifeHome Life Arrow to Home Life - SeniorsSeniors

Seven Tips for Winter Health for Older Adults

older couple having fun winter cold
Staying active, bundling up, and avoiding
extra exertion on snowy days can help
seniors keep fit and healhty throughout
the colder winter months.

While many people wish for a “White Christmas,” the reality is that snow and ice can be a painful one-two punch, especially for seniors who have arthritis or difficulty walking due to a previous stroke or other illness. A single fall can cause debilitating and costly injuries, but a few simple tips can help older adults stay safe and healthy through the winter months.

1. Tread carefully
To help avoid falls, wear appropriate shoes outdoors and put road salt, sand or kitty litter on sidewalks and driveways. Better yet, if the walks haven't been cleared, ask friends or relatives for help with errands such as grocery shopping.

2. Avoid overwork
Find someone to handle snow shoveling and other strenuous outdoor tasks. Cold weather causes blood vessels to constrict, which increases the risk of heart attack for people with heart disease or other conditions that strain the heart's ability to pump blood.

3. Exercise indoors
Staying indoors does not mean being inactive. Keep in shape by walking in place, using a stationary bike or working out with a fitness video, available at the local library. Daily stretching exercises can help maintain flexibility. Check with your physician before beginning any exercise program.

4. Bundle up
Cold temperatures are a serious threat to seniors, especially those with Alzheimer's disease or dementia. A person who wanders from home without proper clothing in the winter can quickly fall victim to frostbite or hypothermia. Families should consider installing alarm systems that signal whenever an outside door is opened.

5. Keep the heat on
Inadequate indoor heat also can cause hypothermia. Keep home temperatures above 65 degrees and dress in layers to maintain body temperature. If you have difficulty paying the heating bill, contact your gas or electric utility about ways to continue service through the winter.

6. Clear the air
If you heat your home with a fireplace, gas furnace or gas-powered space heater, invest in carbon monoxide detectors, which can be purchased at a home improvement store for as little as $30. Carbon monoxide in the air can displace the oxygen in your blood stream and cause headache, dizziness, nausea, convulsions and even death within two hours. The effects can be even faster for people with heart or respiratory illnesses.

7. Socialize
Depression is more common in the winter months, and bad weather can mean social isolation for many seniors. Make efforts to spend time with family, friends and neighbors, and when weather makes visiting difficult, pick up the phone for a chat.

About the Center for Aging & Community
Founded at the University of Indianapolis, the Center for Aging & Community is one of Indiana's leading gerontology centers, helping businesses and community organizations to engage older adults effectively in the key focus areas of Aging in Place and Meaningful Work for Older Adults. Find more information at

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