Healthy Living for Older Adults During Winter
Winter brings with it holidays, family gatherings, hot apple cider, and beautiful white winter wonderlands, even in parts of Arizona.
Unfortunately, it also brings low temperatures, ice on our walkways, and an increased likelihood of catching a cold or the flu, which can be hazardous to our health, especially for seniors. But at BridgeWater Assisted Living, we know older adults don’t have to fear winter as long as preventative measures are taken. As we head into the winter months, there are active steps seniors and their loved ones can take to ensure they remain safe and continue to enjoy healthy living.
Bundle Up and Travel Safely
Winter conditions increase the likelihood of illness and injury, even more so for our older loved ones. Lower temperatures prevent the heart, nervous system, and other organs from functioning properly. This can cause or exacerbate poor circulation, impact the immune system, and lead to cases of hypothermia. So it’s more crucial to stay warm in the winter as we age—body temperatures dropping below 95 degrees Fahrenheit can be dangerous and an indicator of serious illness.
To stay warm, bundle up and wear warm layers, even inside. Snuggling up in a blanket and putting on slippers or thick socks are also good practices. Older adults should try to keep their thermostats at or above 68 degrees and avoid cold or drafty rooms. When heading outside, body heat can be lost quickly so layers should include hats, scarves, and thick gloves if it’s cold.
Winter hazards increase outside for everyone, but definitely for seniors, who can experience more serious injuries from a slip or fall. Since preventing a fall can be easier than recovering from one, invest in good non-slip footwear. If you or your elderly loved one uses a cane or other mobility assistance, it’s vital these pieces also are equipped with additional traction such as ice grips on the bottom or ends. Limiting travel outside is one of the easiest ways to prevent a slip or fall, but when it can’t be avoided, try to keep driveways, sidewalks, or pathways clear of snow and ice. This may mean asking a loved one or a friendly neighbor or paying a service to shovel and spread salt regularly throughout the winter months.
When it is cold outside, it’s easy to want to sit around and not do much. While bundling up with tea and a good book can be relaxing, cutting out activity all day, every day isn’t good physically, mentally, or emotionally. For seniors, an active lifestyle is key to healthy living. Physical activity increases circulation and keeps the muscles strong. Walking inside on a treadmill, lifting some weights, and taking a walk outside—when the conditions are safe—are good ways to maintain an exercise routine and provide positive benefits for the body and the mind.
Keeping the mind active and sharp is also necessary. As symptoms of depression and anxiety increase during winter months trying out a new hobby, socializing, and simply reading are all extremely beneficial. Some artistic hobbies, like knitting and crocheting, have the added benefit of a final product that can be used or gifted to others after completion.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Eating healthy is important for everyone at every age, but as we get older, our immune systems weaken and we can start to lose our appetites. During the colder months, especially surrounding the holidays it is even more tempting to be overindulgent or too lenient with our food consumption. But eating a healthy diet can give our bodies the nutrients we need to combat diseases and ensure healthy living.
Maintaining a balanced diet and healthy calorie consumption can also help keep muscles, bones, and other organs strong. Not to mention, having a healthy level of fatty tissue in our bodies assists with maintaining our core body temperature. If you’re unsure if you or your loved one is getting the proper nutrients and calories needed, consult a doctor about diet and vitamin supplement recommendations.
During the winter months, it’s easy to feel isolated, especially for older adults who may struggle with mobility or traveling long distances to see family. Isolation not only increases feelings of loneliness and boredom, but can also lead to increased feelings of depression. The best remedy for this is to socialize.
While it may be challenging when most people tend to stay indoors when it gets colder, there are options to connect with others, combat the gloom, and provide mental stimulation. Visits with friends and family can be instrumental in fighting the feeling of isolation. When in-person interactions are limited, though, even a phone call or video chat can seriously boost feelings of community and connection.
Getting out to mingle and join events at the local senior centers is another great option when weather permits safe travel conditions. Participating in classes can provide mental stimulation and the chance to make a new friend.
Consider Assisted Living Communities
Assisted living communities can make traversing the winter months easier for older adults and their loved ones. Socialization, staying active, living space maintenance, healthy eating, and more can all be managed and supported in senior living communities. They organize physical and social activities and outings and employ staff to maintain the living space and grounds, and they can ensure your loved one has someone to provide monitoring of their overall health during the winter months.
Communities, such as BridgeWater Assisted Living, provide these needed resources and more for every stage of care—independent living, assisted, and memory care. For those seniors who choose BridgeWater Assisted Living, their loved ones can rest assured that the level of support and care will be there for many winters to come and will change and adapt with them as they progress through any and every stage of care we offer.
This ensures they can age with dignity, and both you and your loved one will know what to expect each winter as the weather changes. For more information on the care we can provide, during the winter and all year round, contact us and we would be happy to answer your questions.