How the Winter Cold Affects Senior Mobility

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The winter months are a difficult and trying time for many people and can especially be so for seniors. Many seniors are able to leave cold climates and escape to warmer places to avoid the dark days and dropping temperatures. But others are unable to and may face many challenges, including those that affect mobility. 

Why do seniors experience reduced mobility during certain times of the year, especially during the winter, and what helpful steps can be taken to help ensure senior safety?

Reduced Mobility Factors and Helpful Hints

Many factors contribute to a reduction in senior mobility during the winter cold. Muscle atrophy can occur due to reduction in a movement. This affects senior safety because reduced flexibility and lack of walking or other exercise contributes to falls, balance problems and circulation issues. Helpful hints to maintain senior mobility would include:

  • Don’t avoid movement or some type of exercise. Staying in bed or in one position on a chair can greatly reduce senior mobility.
  • Senior safety at home is an important factor to consider in addressing mobility issues. Consider getting the advice of a geriatric care manager who can help identify safety hazards in your home and make recommendations to help prevent falls. Some suggestions may involve de-cluttering your living space, wearing skid proof socks, adding lighting to avoid falls at nights and safe proofing your bathroom as this is the room where many falls occur.
  • Senior safety outside the home may involve getting help with removing snow and ice from your driveway and outside walking areas. Also consider wearing slip-proof shoes, dressing appropriately in cold weather by layering loose fitting clothes and wearing waterproof gloves, and getting help with transportation.
  • Social isolation greatly contributes to reduced senior mobility during the winter months. It is important to remain connected with friends and family. Try to continue to attend activities outside the home and also plan back-up options if outside activities are not possible. Get recommendations from local churches, synagogues and senior centers about possible friendly visitors to your home. Also, having a cell phone to stay in touch with family, friends and important medical and safety contacts is suggested. If, like most people, you are not a technology expert then get assistance with having key phone numbers stored in your phone. You will then just need to push one number to connect quickly with essential people or services in your life. For additional security and reassurance, consider getting a call alert system so that you can reach out for help immediately, if needed.
  • Good nutrition is another extremely important factor to enhancing senior mobility during the winter. This involves staying hydrated and eating nutritious meals. To help get through inclement weather, you may find it helpful to look into meal services, which deliver prepared meals. It is also helpful to stock up on essential foods, especially canned or frozen foods, so that you can continue to be well nourished.

You can take control of the cold weather by focusing on maintaining mobility through movement and exercise, focusing on good nutrition, communication and safety.  Senior mobility is an important issue to focus on during the upcoming months. Planning appropriately by getting needed assistance and reaching out to others will help you master the long cold months of winter. For example, a geriatric care manager can help you identify areas of potential concern and help you locate the supports that your loved one will need to stay safe during the winter months.

If you have questions or concerns about your elderly loved one during the winter months, call Abramson Care Advisors, free, 24 hours a day, seven days at 215-371-3400 a week for assistance.