Office: (276) 964-4915
Toll-Free: (800) 656-2272
Fax: (276) 963-0130
TDD/TTY: (276) 964-5765

Snowy weather and cold temperatures are a bother for everyone, but for seniors it can simply be dangerous. Older Americans are particularly vulnerable to complications from winter weather. Influenza, falls and hypothermia top the list of winter ailments. By making it a practice to help family, friends, and neighbors who need special attention during the cold weather, you could be saving a life. Ensuring seniors homes are safe, warm, and letting them know they are not alone can make certain senior citizens can live, walk, and even in some cases drive safely though the worst winter can bring.

According to the National Institutes for Health, more than 1.6 million older Americans go to the emergency room each year for fall-related injuries. One of the major causes for falls is ice. It seems simple enough to not walk through snow and keep away from areas that are covered with ice; however when the temperature drops rapidly, black ice can occur without warning. To lessen the chances of a fall in cold weather, stretch before going outside. Stretching improves circulation and limbers stiff muscles. Be cautious of footwear; make sure that you are wearing non-skid sole shoes with a low heel and adequate support if you must be out in the weather. Make arrangements to have safety devices installed around the outside of your home if possible. A simple handrail can provide necessary support to help maintain balance and keep you from falling.

As people age, their sense of touch declines. Arthritis, diabetes, poor circulation, stroke induced paralysis, and a multitude of other conditions can cause lack of feeling, especially in the extremities. To prevent hypothermia keep your home’s thermostat set at 68 degrees or above, dress in layers of loose fitting clothing and keep your head covered when you are outdoors. A great deal of heat is lost when your head is exposed. Remember, the risks of hypothermia are slurred speech, confusion, dizziness, slow or irregular heartbeat and shallow breathing.

Protecting your skin is another winter weather tip that seniors should pay special attention to. As we age our skin becomes thinner and drier, thus more prone to tears. Certain medications can spell havoc on the lining of your nasal passages, creating an increased risk for nose bleeds. Keep the dangers of dryness low by using a humidifier to keep your air moist, drink plenty of water and eat foods high in water content like soups and vegetables, and moisturize your skin daily with creams or lotions.

We cannot stop Mother Nature from sending us winter weather, however we can do ourselves a big favor and be prepared if it does occur. Making regular visits with a senior will help make sure that their health is not declining as a result of cold weather. Do not wait until winter weather happens to expand active lines of communication. Prepare yourself by developing a “buddy-system” where you call and check on your friends, family, and neighbors. One quick call may save someone’s life.

AASC is one of Virginia’s 25 Area Agencies on Aging designated by the Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services to carry out the department’s mission to foster the dignity, independence and security of older Virginians by promoting partnerships with communities at the local level. AASC offers information and services for older adults residing in Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell and Tazewell counties. Visit the organization’s website at www.aasc.org or call toll-free at 1-800-656-2272.