How Does Cold Weather Affect Seniors?
As the leaves change colors and people are getting ready for the holidays, the warm summer sunshine is beginning to give way to the cold autumn air.
For most people, these cold temperatures are a minor inconvenience that can be solved with warm clothes. However, seniors are more drastically affected by the shifting seasons.
Increased Risk of Falls
The colder part of the year brings a higher risk of falling for seniors. Most obvious is during the winter; both ice and snow pose serious falling threats to seniors, especially those in colder climates.
Autumn has it’s own fall risks as well. Seniors might fall while raking leaves or performing other seasonal yard work. In addition, winds might pick up enough to cause some seniors to lose their balance.
Many seniors experience chronic pain from diseases such as arthritis. This pain tends to flare up when the weather changes because of changes in barometric pressure can cause tendons and muscles to expand or contract. In addition, some researchers believe that colder temperatures can thicken fluids inside the joints, leading to joint stiffness.
As temperatures drop, seniors with cardiovascular conditions may experience worse symptoms.
See, blood vessels constrict in response to the cold to minimize heat loss through the skin from the warmer blood. This constriction reduces the flow of oxygen throughout the body, causing these symptoms.
Layering up is a great way to insulate your body and trap heat, minimize symptoms caused by the winter weather.
Weaker Immune System
Cold weather itself doesn’t cause sickness, but it makes it easier for viruses like the common cold or flu to infect you.
On top of that, our immune systems generally weaken with age. Thus, seniors are at a much greater risk of catching a cold or something worse during the fall and winter months. Stay warm and ward off sickness by wearing multiple layers outdoors.
Hypothermia happens when the body starts shutting down after becoming too cold to function.
Older adults can’t stand up to the cold air for as long as younger adults. For one, their bodies are less efficient at generating heat. Plus, seniors tend to have less body fat, reducing their resistance to the cold air.
All this leads to a higher risk of hypothermia. Signs of hypothermia include slowed/slurred speech, slower movement, sleepiness, and confusion.
To lower your risk of hypothermia, wear several layers when outside. Add to your layers by wearing a warm winter hat, some mittens, and some strong winter boots.
Some medications and illnesses can increase hypothermia risk. Talk to your doctor about your hypothermia concerns and your current medications.
Changes in Sleep Habits
Sunlight helps our bodies regulate sleep. During the fall and winter, there is a lot less sunlight, which can make people feel sluggish and sleepy for longer throughout the day. To combat this, seniors should set an alarm to maintain their normal daily schedule. In addition, maximize the sunlight in your home by opening the blinds on all your windows.