(StatePoint) Short days and cooler weather can be a stressful time of year, especially for older people who are at higher risk for common winter ailments. But there are steps you can take to stay safe and healthy.
Prevent the Flu
Seniors are at especially high risk for developing complications from the flu. According to Flu.gov, ninety percent of flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people aged 65 and older.
So do your best to avoid getting it in the first place. Get vaccinated. The flu vaccine is widely available this year and free under Medicare.
Always remember to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, and avoid contact with sick people.
Avoid wet slippery patches when walking outdoors. Many pharmacies and grocery stores make deliveries these days. But if a winter wonderland is in your cards this season, remember to walk carefully and wear shoes with proper traction. You might even consider using a cane for stability.
Those with osteoporosis or weakened bones are at a higher risk for fractures from falls. But you can keep your bones strong by getting plenty of calcium and vitamin D, avoiding alcohol and cigarettes and getting regular exercise.
The short days of winter leave many feeling blue. If you have seasonal affective disorder, or just a case of the blahs, you might consider talking to your doctor about light therapy — which involves regular exposure to a bright fluorescent lamp that mimics natural sunlight. Stay positive by filling up your social calendar, keeping in regular touch with family and friends, getting exercise, and listening to upbeat music.
Cold weather is dangerous for older people and those with heart or respiratory problems.
Bundle up when you go outside. That includes a hat, gloves, and a scarf, if necessary.
At home, keep your feet covered with thick socks. Prepare tea, soup and other hot foods and beverages. Seal up drafts in your home with weather-stripping.
And if your muscles feel stiff and your breathing is slow, call 911 immediately, as these are signs of hypothermia.
Don’t fret — the sun will come out tomorrow. But for now, take care to stay healthy this season.