Six More Weeks of Winter? Oy! Cold Weather Safety Tips for Older Adults

Already this winter, we’ve seen many winter weather advisories throughout Greater Cincinnati. In the first week of January alone, bitter cold temperatures and wind chills caused the temperature to fall from 0 to 10 below zero. Fortunately, Cincinnati missed the onslaught of snow that fell during the bomb cyclone hitting the East Coast, but even so, temperatures continue to stay low.

As the bitter and icy cold rears its ugly head, life for older adults can get more complicated. Older adults lose body heat faster than when they were young, and as people age, it can be harder for them to be aware that their body is getting cold. Bitter cold temperatures and wind chills can lead to illnesses very quickly.

The National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institute of Health (NIH), provides helpful information on staying well in cold weather. Here are some of their best tips for staying warm.

  1. Set your heat at 70⁰ or higher. To save on heating bills, close off rooms you are not using. Close the vents and shut the doors in these rooms, and keep the basement door closed. Place a rolled towel in front of all doors to keep out drafts.
  2. Make sure your house isn’t losing heat through windows. Keep your blinds and curtains closed. If you have gaps around the windows, try using weather stripping or caulk to keep the cold air out.
  3. Dress warmly on cold days even if you are staying in the house. Throw a blanket over your legs. Wear socks and slippers.
  4. When you go to sleep, wear long underwear under your pajamas and use extra covers. Wear a cap.
  5. Make sure you eat enough food to keep up your weight. If you don’t eat well, you might have less fat under your skin. Body fat helps you to stay warm.
  6. Drink alcohol moderately, if at all. Alcoholic drinks can cause you to lose body heat.
  7. Ask family or friends to check on you during cold weather. If a power outage leaves you without heat, try to stay with a relative or friend.
  8. Dress for the weather if you have to go out on chilly, cold, or damp days.
    1. Wear loose layers of clothing. The air between the layers helps to keep you warm.
    2. Put on a hat and scarf. You lose a lot of body heat when your head and neck are uncovered.
    3. Wear a waterproof coat or jacket if it’s snowy.
  9. Talk to your doctor to prevent health problems.
    1. Ask your doctor about signs of hypothermia. (Hypothermia is what happens when your body temperature gets very low). Being outside in the cold, or even being in a very cold house, can lead to hypothermia. For an older adult, a body temperature colder than 95⁰ can cause health problems, including a heart attack, kidney problems, liver damage, or worse.
    2. Talk to your doctor about any health problems and medicines that can make hypothermia a problem for you.Your doctor can help you find ways to prevent hypothermia.
    3. Ask your doctor about safe ways to stay active even when it’s cold outside.
  10. If possible, let others know when you’re planning to spend time outdoors and carry a fully charged cell phone.

If you have more questions about how to stay warm in your home this winter, or need help making sure your house is prepared for winter, call AgeWell Cincinnati.