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Winter Survival for Seniors

Not all senior citizens are lucky enough to spend the winter in sunny locales like Florida or Arizona. Many seniors from northern climates stay put for the winter, doing their best to cope with the harsh weather.

If you’re one of those seniors, you may be finding that getting through the cold is a bit more challenging than it used to be.

Following are a few tips to help seniors stay happy and healthy until the first flowers of spring emerge:

  • Safety First: Being an independent-living senior doesn’t mean having to “go it alone” against Old Man Winter. Call on children, relatives and neighbors for help. (And children, relatives and neighbors: Check on seniors regularly during the winter to see if they need anything.)
  • If you have trouble lifting bags of salt or shovelfuls of snow, look for help. Snow shoveling is hard work—and in cold temperatures you’re more at risk of heart attack. Before winter arrives look for neighborhood teens who would like to earn a little spending money. Or check at your church or senior center, the classified section of the local paper or on bulletin boards around town for people you can hire.
  • Also, consider an in-home companion or caregiver. A caregiver can help with homemaking tasks, including keeping your sidewalk clear.
  • Keeping warm. When you have to be outside, dress in layers and cover all exposed skin, including the head, face, earlobes, hands and feet, to limit your exposure to the cold. Water repellant outer layers and boots will help.When inside, take extra care in using fireplaces, wood stoves, candles and space heaters. Your local fire department can provide you home heating safety advice, and if you use a wood stove or fireplace have it inspected and cleaned. To help ensure your safety, put fresh batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors at the onset of cold weather.
  • Conserve interior heat by closing windows and doors to rooms you aren’t using. Cover windows with draperies and place towels along cracks at the bottom of doors. And always store plenty of dry wood inside in case you can’t get out.
  • Eating Right: It’s tempting in the winter to load up on high-carb foods. But with a bit of planning and effort—like canning produce from your garden—you can keep eating a well-balanced diet throughout winter. Vegetable-laden stews and soups made with reduced-sodium broths and warm, sweetened beverages can keep you feeling toasty on a cold day and provide your body beneficial nutrients. Limit alcohol, caffeine and cigarette smoking. They decrease the body’s ability to conserve heat.

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