8 Things Seniors Can Do to Keep Their Health in Good Condition During the Winter Months

If you live in one of the upper Eastern states, or anywhere along the Canadian border, you know that winters will be rough. If you are older, these extreme weathers can take their toll on your health.

You are in luck if you live in a residential care facility, like PegasusSeniorLiving, because they will do all they can to keep you safe and warm during the long cold season.

Here are 8 things seniors can do to keep their health in good condition during the winter months.

1. Flu Season

It is important to get a flu shot because when the cold weather blows in, it can also bring the germs that cause colds and the flu with it. Getting a flu shot each fall will help combat that rundown and sick feeling that comes along with these illnesses. It could also save your life.

Ask your doctor when the best time to get your flu shot. Some flu seasons don't start until later in the fall, while others begin the minute the leaves begin to change colours.

2. Protect Your Immune System

As an older adult, your immune system may be compromised. This means you are more susceptible to illness. One way to protect your immune system is to take extra precautions during winter.

Take more Vitamin C and ask your doctor for an anti-viral prescription. The flu shot will protect you from many strains of the flu virus; however, it will not protect you from all strains and other illnesses.

An anti-viral medication will boost your immune system and protect it from random illnesses that linger in the colder weather.

3. Dress for the Weather

If you must venture outside, always dress in layers. Layers lock in heat between the clothing and keep your body warmer for longer. If you have long underwear, put them on under your jeans or trousers.

Wear a turtleneck or something form-fitting as the first layer on the top. This will keep your body heat from escaping. You can add a button-up shirt - something in flannel would be warm, and on the very top, a sweatshirt. The top layers should be loose fitting to allow the warm body heat to circulate.

Dressing in layers will help to keep you from getting hypothermia, which can be very dangerous. If it is extremely cold outside, you may want to reconsider your plans to leave the house.

If you do venture out, don't forget the hat, scarf and gloves as heat will escape your body mostly through the ends of your body such as your fingers and your head. You want to keep all parts of your body covered at all times.

You also must dress warmly in the house. Hypothermia can set in when you are inside, although not as easy when you have suitable heat. Some older individuals may want to save money and don’t use the required heat in their house.

There are many places that can help in paying your heating costs during the winter months. Contact your local agency to find places that offer financial help.

4. Stay Hydrated

It is important to stay hydrated during the winter months as the cold air can drain your skin of moisture. You still need to drink plenty of water along with hot beverages.

Water will help you stay hydrated and keep your skin moisturized, while hot beverages will keep your entire body warm longer.

5. SAD

Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD can be brought on by the longer days with decreased sunlight and the blistering cold. SAD can be a severe illness and should be taken seriously.

It is important to monitor your mood. If you are experiencing any of the following, talk to your doctor immediately.

•         Insomnia
•         Oversleeping
•         Severe sadness
•         Feeling "empty"
•    Physical problems like constant stomach aches, headaches or other illnesses that seem to have no connection to a cause
•         Loss of interest in everyday activities
•         Feelings of helplessness
•         Overwhelming stress not connected to anything
•         Feelings of guilt
•         Difficulty making decisions
•         Difficulty concentrating

A doctor will prescribe medication and/or light therapy to help you manage your SAD. Light therapy is a special type that will not burn your eyes as you look into it and many users have found this to be pretty effective.

Light therapy is generally used for one to two hours a day and has been proven to be very helpful for depression that comes with the cold weather and less sunlight.

6. Exercise

For older adults, it may be difficult to exercise, especially in the winter months, but it is important to stay active. You don’t need to be lifting weights or doing anything too intense.

To stay energized in the winter months, opt for walking indoors at a large box store or at the mall. Walking is the best way to engage all your muscles without too much stress on your joints.

Exercise also helps to raise your mood by releasing "feel good" hormones and, thus, making it a natural mood-booster. Putting some of your favorite tunes on and moving around to the rhythm can improve your mood instantly.

7. Hire Some Help

Seniors are more susceptible to heart attacks during the winter months due to exertion like shovelling snow. Now is the time to hire someone to shovel the driveway for you.

Compacted snow can be heavy and moving it in extreme cold can be dangerous. It is better to be safe than sorry.

8. Use Heating Devices Carefully

We all love the feeling a space heater or an electric blanket provides us during the cold weather months. However, these devices can be dangerous if not used with caution.

Use extra blankets on the bed and a heated blanket on the couch when you are awake and watching television or doing other activities. As a safer alternative, turn off space heaters at night and turn up the central heating if you get cold at night.

Never leave a space heater running when you are not in the room or you’re leaving your house. An unattended heater can tip over. It may also malfunction and cause a fire.

As an older adult, it is important to take care of yourself and ask for help during the long winter months.

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