As temperatures stay low in the DC Metropolitan area, it’s important to consider ways to keep ourselves and the older adults in our lives safe and warm. Here are some ideas and tips to consider to maintain winter safety for older adults:

Senior couple sitting on porch with blanket
  • Checking on weather updates regularly

    The weather can change abruptly, and it’s advisable to keep a couple of weather applications on your phone to know when it might snow, rain, or even freeze. You can then plan your trips outside accordingly.

  • Dressing and preparing for cold temperatures – inside AND outside

    Try to limit outside exposure in cold temperatures. Wearing essentials such as hats, gloves, a winter coat, boots, and a scarf can help. Any clothing that gets wet should be changed soon as wet clothing can chill the body. If any body part feels like it is freezing, try to run it under warm water (not hot) and massage the area.

    While staying inside on a cold day is already helpful in maintaining body temperature, keeping multiple layers on while inside or having a cap, blanket, or sweater nearby is advisable in the winter months. The body can also be affected by a home’s internal temperature – try to keep the home’s temperature at 65 degrees or warmer, and layers nearby for comfort. Placing a rolled towel or cloth at the foot of doors and windows can also help keep cold drafts out of rooms.

  • Keeping stock of essentials

    It’s important to have extra water and non-perishable food stored in case you are unable to get groceries on some days. Some other essentials to keep in mind are blankets, warm clothes, and important medications. You can also talk with your doctor to see if any of the medicines you take could make your body more sensitive to cold weather.

  • Preparing a backup kit in case of power outages

    Aside from water, food, and warm clothing, you can prepare an emergency kit – with items such as a flashlight, a radio, extra batteries, and first aid kit.

  • Ensuring the safety of additional external heat sources

    In the winter, we may want to use additional heat sources such as electric heaters, candles, space heaters, and more. Having smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors near your heaters and fireplaces can help you manage the air quality. Additionally, any candles or space heaters should be a few feet away from anything that may catch fire, such as bedding.

  • Travel and movement precautions

    • If you are using a cane or walker, checking and/or replacing the tips for strong rubber can help with stability.
    • Shoes and boots that have non-skid soles (with visible traction) are safest for wearing in the winter. Ensure your walkways and driveway are salted, and avoid going outside if there is snow on the ground in freezing temperatures – there could be black ice.
    • If you are driving somewhere, make sure you have the proper tires, windshield scraper, salt, a flashlight, and other first aid essentials. Check weather reports before any trips outside.
  • Keep in touch with your family and friends nearby

    If you are in need of assistance (groceries, power or heating issues, travel), consider reaching out to friends or family for assistance.

We hope everyone is staying safe and warm in these freezing conditions. To learn more about health information and safety for older adults, you can:

Meghna Taneja, 2021
Montgomery Hospice and Prince George’s Hospice