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Winter Health Tips For Seniors

A senior couple walking in the snow, hand in hand

That chill in the air during the winter months is more than uncomfortable; for older adults, it can quickly turn deadly.

Between a greater risk of slips and falls with all the ice and snow and the elevated chances of developing hypothermia, you can’t take any chances. 

Bundle up and buckle up, as this list of winter health tips for seniors drops right when the temperatures are starting to. Bear them in mind whenever you venture out until spring. 

Top Health Tips For Winter Weather

1. Layer Up 

As age causes your blood circulation to lessen, you feel the cold far more readily than those around you who are younger. That calls for dressing for the weather more conscientiously than you maybe used to in years past. 

Layer up in warm clothes, even if you’ll be hanging around indoors. This is a great way to to conserve body heat. 

Start with a base layer that fits closely to your body. Choose a moisture-wicking fabric like merino wool so that if you sweat, the fabric doesn’t get wet and cold against your skin.

A middle layer can be somewhat thicker but should still wick away moisture, and the third layer thicker still. For example, you might wear a thin, long-sleeved shirt as your base layer, then a thicker turtleneck over that, and a sweater or sweatshirt on top. 

If you’re venturing out, you need another layer, like a winter coat. Don’t forget the hat and gloves when going outdoors!  

2. Stay Hydrated

Many of us think about hydration the most in the summer when the harsh sun leaves us parched. That said, you can become dehydrated any time of year, including winter. It’s easier when you’re older. 

Plan to drink the equivalent of one-third of your body weight of water in ounces each day. You can even increase the intake to half your body weight. 

My favorite tips for drinking more water? Gamify it and make it fun. 

Be aware of the signs of dehydration too, as they will tell you when you need to call your doctor. If you feel extra thirsty, tired, and have a dry mouth, and you’re experiencing urinary changes, you could be dehydrated. Dark yellow urine with a strong odor is another indicator.  

3. Plan Activities For Earlier In The Day 

One of the hardest parts of winter for many people is the reduced daylight hours. It can get dark before 5 o’ clock, especially during the earlier days of the winterr season.

Early darkness carries many risks for older people. You’re more likely to slip and fall, even if it hasn’t snowed or is icy, because you can’t see as well. Black ice is also more prevalent after the sun sets, and it’s almost impossible to see, especially with low visibility.

Learn what to do if you fall on ice.

On top of all that, the bone-chilling temperatures after night falls are also dangerous for seniors to be exposed to long-term.

Try to plan your outings before the sun goes down. This way, you’re home, snuggly, and safe during the most treacherous winter hours. 

4. Learn To Walk On Ice 

Being conscientious and alert when you go out will do you worlds of good for avoiding bone-fracturing or breaking slips and falls. If you see a shiny surface on the sidewalk or road, don’t walk on it. It’s probably ice.

Black ice has a dull, dark appearance compared to the asphalt on the road. That can help you spot it, but sometimes it’s tough to see, even among those of us with eagle-eyed vision. 

That’s why it’s good to know how to navigate ice (or the right way to fall on ice) if you come upon it. Although it’s a bit silly, the penguin waddle remains your safest stance to take when walking on icy sidewalks and streets.

Put your center of gravity forward, focusing on one leg. Your toes should be outward, your knees slightly bent, and your hands to your side but behind you. Then, go slowly forward.

Do you look a bit funny? Sure. Will you get to where you need to go more slowly? Yes, but it’s worth it, because you’ll get there safely.

Read our winter safety tips.

5. Keep Your Indoor Temperature Comfortable

What temperature do you have your thermostat set? Ideally, it should be between 68 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit and never under 65 degrees in the colder months. 

Although you wouldn’t think you could get hypothermia indoors, you can in your older years. The risk elevates as the mercury drops, with temps of 60 degrees and under increasingly more dangerous. 

If your breathing slows, you begin shivering, your pulse feels weak, and you’re suddenly very tired, you should call emergency services immediately, as these are signs of hypothermia. 

Wearing long underwear, slippers, thick socks, and layers will keep you comfy at home.

6. Prioritize Nutrition

The doldrums of the winter season might not leave you in the mood to cook, but good nutrition and a well-balanced diet is more important this time of year than any other. Among other things, the winter season worsens certain health conditions.

Plus, hearty, filling, and nutritious dishes will leave you satiated for longer.

Be sure to stock  up on non-perishable foods (and emergency supplies, such as extra batteries) ahead of winter storms and possible power outages, as well.

Try making these great recipes:

  • Beef ragu
  • White turkey chili
  • Banana oatmeal
  • Mac and corn cheese
  • Chicken fajitas on a sheet pan
  • Cauliflower curry soup
  • Ginger and turmeric noodle soup
  • Berry chicken salad
  • Salmon and veggies
  • Chicken pot pie
  • Lentil soup
  • Broccoli wild rice casserole
  • Chicken and dumplings
  • Stew
  • Tater tot casserole
  • Shepherd’s pie

With so many exciting recipes, you can keep busy all winter making varied breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and desserts. Cooking tools like a slow cooker and air fryer can simplify most of the recipe prep.

If you still find yourself struggling to cook, why not call a friend, family member, or neighbor over? They would surely love to help and enjoy a homecooked meal together. Nothing tastes better than when it’s made with love. 

Of course, please talk to your healthcare provider if you’re regularly finding it too difficult to cook for yourself.

7. Find Ways To Exercise

Exercise motivation can plummet to an all-time low in the winter, and that’s the case for younger folks, too. It’s easier to just stay bundled up in bed watching television, right?

However, your body will benefit from exercise. You’re supposed to spend 20 to 30 minutes per day exercising in your older years, which is about 150 minutes of fitness a week.

You don’t have to lift heavy weights or use an elliptical. A brisk walk is enough. Use a treadmill if you can’t get outside because of cold temperatures or inclement weather. 

If you’re partaking in higher-intensity exercising like running instead of walking, you only need 75 minutes of exercise a week, which is about 11 to 15 minutes a day. 

8. Stay Connected 

The winter blues can begin around Christmastime and last until spring. Whether it’s the financial pinch of the holiday season, the short days and long nights, the lack of outdoor time, or the frigid temperatures that have got you down (or even a bit of all the above), social isolation will only make it worse.

Call a friend or family member, or, better yet, FaceTime them on a  regular basis so you can see their face. Invite people over occasionally and try not to turn down too many social invitations (safety and health permitting, of course).

Speak to your doctor or mental health professional if you’re experiencing a strong emotional slump and a lack of motivation, as you might have seasonal affective disorder (a type of seasonal depression). This is a common malady among the elderly, but there is help. 

9. Seal Up Gaps And Openings 

The end of autumn / beginning of winter is an excellent time to have a technician over to your house to check for foundation gaps around your property. You can take care of weatherstripping drafty doors and windows if you’re physically capable or hire someone to do it for you.

Closing gaps will go a long way toward reducing your heating bills and making your home more comfortable, safe, and hospitable in n the cold months ahead. 

10. Don’t Drink Alcohol 

Alcohol makes you feel warm in the moment, but it doesn’t last. Your body temperature will gradually drop, even if you’re wearing layers and in a warm environment. This elevates your hypothermia risk. 

11. Buy Boots With Good Traction 

While walking on designated pathways and sidewalks is a safe bet outdoors in the winter, you also need the right footwear, or you’ll still be slipping and sliding.

Wear shoes and boots with traction grip and non-skid soles (or better yet, cleats) that can latch on, even on slippery surfaces, and keep you upright.

Read our winter fall prevention tips.

12. Be Careful Of Strenuous Activities

There is an increased risk of having a heart attack in the winter season, according to Northwestern Medicine. They say, “the drop in temperature can impact your health, specifically your heart, in ways you may not expect.

This is because our heart has to work harder to keep us warm in cold air. In addition, people take part in activities they aren’t used to in snowy conditions. Things like shoveling snow or walking through deep snow make our hearts work harder.

It’s a good idea to take frequent breaks to go inside and warm up on cold days.

Be sure to check with your doctor to see if shoveling snow is all right for you to do or if it’s unsafe.

Wrapping Up

Winter creates many risks that senior citizens must stay abreast of. Hypothermia is one of the biggest ones, as you can indeed develop symptoms even when indoors during colder conditions.

Slips and falls on black ice or snowy, slippery conditions are another health hazard.

Rather than thinking of the winter as a time to lay low and isolate, enjoy the season for its tranquility and beauty, but please, do so safely!

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