5 Autumn Safety Tips for Seniors
As autumn leaves start to fall and the air turns crisp, older adults face seasonal challenges to their health. The cold and flu season is just getting started, and there are other cold-weather threats to a senior’s health and safety that can be minimized by following a few basic guidelines.
Here are five tips for seniors to follow to stay healthy and safe during the colder seasons.
- Get the flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that adults aged 65 and older get a flu vaccine each year, ideally by the end of October. While the flu shot is recommended for every person above six months of age, seniors are especially at risk for complications from the flu, such as pneumonia, bronchitis and ear infections. The flu can also make any chronic health problems worse. There are two types of flu shots specially designed for seniors. Ask your health care provider which one would be best for you.
- Be wary of tripping hazards. People generally experience stiffer joints in colder weather. Not only might it be a bit harder to move around, but it gets dark out early, the ground is often wet or frozen, and fallen leaves create slipping hazards or even cover up hazardous rocks that you can trip on. Make sure leaves are cleared from sidewalks and driveways on your property and that all walkways are illuminated to reduce your chances of a fall. Sprinkle cat litter or sand on icy sidewalks. Stretch before going outside to warm up stiff muscles. You can learn tips for preventing falls inside of the home here.
- Stay warm. As you get older, your risk of suffering hypothermia goes up. Hypothermia can be a life-threatening condition that occurs when an individual’s body temperature drops below normal and remains low for a period of time. Being over the age of 60, having health conditions like diabetes or hypothyroidism, and taking certain medications all make you more susceptible to the cold. You can develop hypothermia even after exposure to mild cold temperatures, according to the National Institutes of Health. Dress in layered, loose-fitting clothing. Dress warmly and wear a hat when going outside. Keep your indoor temperature at a minimum of 68 degrees Fahrenheit. If you need help paying your heating bills, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services may be able to help. The Eldercare Locator is a tool from the U.S. government to help connect you with agencies that can help.
- Protect your skin. Indoor air becomes arid thanks to household heating systems. With age, our skin gets thinner and more prone to dryness and tears that can lead to infections. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids and eating soup. Using a humidifier indoors can go a long way toward putting some much-needed moisture back into the air. Also, make sure to help keep your skin from drying out with lotion or cream.
- Eliminate fire risks. Check that electrical appliances like electrical blankets are in good condition without fraying cords. Space heaters are common sources of fires. Make sure they’re placed far away from flammable surfaces. Autumn is an excellent time to check the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Also, be sure to have working fire extinguishers in the kitchen and near any fireplaces.
While the cold weather makes us want to go inside, make sure to reach out to friends and family to stay connected. Enjoy the beautiful fall season as you prepare for the upcoming winter. With a little planning and care, you can minimize your chances of encountering any risks to your health or safety.